Phylogeography of a Palaearctic sedentary passerine, the willow tit (Parus montanus)


Laura Kvist, Department of Animal Ecology, Ecology Building, University of Lund, S-22362 Lund, Sweden. Tel.: +46-46-222-3613; fax: +46-46-222-4716; e-mail:


We analysed variation of the mitochondrial control region from willow tits through its Palaearctic distribution range. Although we found high amount of genetic variation (π=1.114%), there was almost no differentiation between subspecies or geographical localities. This may be because of a combination of several ecological and genetic factors, including a relatively homogenic habitat through the distribution range, lack of geographical barriers, high gene flow and a large long-term effective population size. On the contrary, in the songar tit, which is sometimes considered to be conspecific with the willow tit, the mitochondrial lineages seem to correlate with the geographical locality and are clearly distinct from the willow tit. We concluded that the common ancestors of willow and songar tits existed some 1.5–2 Myr ago in the south-eastern Asia. After the last Ice Ages, the willow tit expanded all through the Palaearctic, whereas the songar tit remained in eastern Asia.