Aim Boreal forest bird species appear to be divided into lineages endemic to each northern continent, in contrast to Holarctic species living in open habitats. For example, the three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) and the winter wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) have divergent Nearctic and Palaearctic mitochondrial DNA clades. Furthermore, in these species, the next closest relative of the Nearctic/Palaearctic sister lineages is the Nearctic clade, suggesting that the Palaearctic may have been colonized from the Nearctic. The aim of this study is to test this pattern of intercontinental divergence and colonization in another Holarctic boreal forest resident – the pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator).
Location The Holarctic.
Methods We sequenced the mitochondrial ND2 gene and Z-specific intron 9 of the ACO1 gene for 74 pine grosbeaks collected across the Holarctic. The sequences were used to reconstruct the phylogeographical history of this species using maximum likelihood analysis.
Results We discovered two distinct mitochondrial and Z-specific lineages in the Nearctic and one in the Palaearctic. The two Nearctic mtDNA lineages, one in the northern boreal forest and one in south-western mountain forest, were more closely related to each other than either was to the Palaearctic clade. Two Nearctic Z-chromosome clades were sympatric in the boreal and south-western mountain forests. Unlike the topology of the mtDNA tree, the relationship among the Z-chromosome clades was the same as in the three-toed woodpecker and winter wren [Nearctic (Nearctic, Palaearctic)]. The Palaearctic Z-chromosome clade had much lower genetic diversity and a single-peak mismatch distribution with a mean < 25% of that for either Nearctic region, both of which had ragged mismatch distributions.
Main conclusions Our data suggest that, similar to the other boreal forest species, the pine grosbeak has divergent lineages in each northern continent and could have colonized the Palaearctic from the Nearctic. Compared with many Holarctic birds inhabiting open habitats, boreal forest species appear to be more differentiated, possibly because the boreal forests of the Nearctic and Palaearctic have been isolated since the Pliocene (3.5 Ma).