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Abstract

We analysed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences from 154 bluethroats (Luscinia svecica) sampled at 21 sites throughout much of their Eurasian range. A previously reported, single base-pair mtDNA difference between L. s. svecica and L. s. namnetum was inconsistent upon expanded geographical sampling. A significant FST value (0.29) and an isolation-by-distance effect show the existence of geographical differentiation. Phylogenetic analysis of haplotypes revealed northern and southern groups, although lineage sorting is incomplete. There was no geographical structure to the haplotype tree within groups, and currently recognized subspecies were not supported. A minimum evolution tree based on pairwise mtDNA genetic distances among average samples showed the same two broadly distributed northern and southern groups. These groups abut in the centre of the latitudinal range, and were possibly isolated by forest that developed and spread westward over the last 15 000 years. Pairwise FST values averaged 0.16 in the southern group, 0.04 in the northern group, and 0.42 between groups. Mismatch distributions suggested population growth in each group, with that in the south being more recent. In the northern group, the geographical pattern in tau suggested northward and eastward expansion. Analysis of nucleotide diversity suggested westward expansion in the southern group. The northern group had higher nucleotide diversity than the southern group, consistent with a larger current population size in the north. Given the significant FST, incompletely sorted haplotype tree, and broadly patterned minimum evolution tree, L. svevica appears to represent a species at an intermediate stage of differentiation between panmixia and reciprocal monophyly.