• Saxicola torquata;
  • Saxicola rubetra;
  • Cytochrome-b Nucleotide sequences;
  • Molecular phytogeny;
  • Speciation


The geographical differentiation and speciation in the stonechat (Saxicola torquata; Aves: Turdidae) was studied by sequencing a 300-bp fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene. Stonechats from three different subspecies inhabiting three continents (S. t. rubicola, the European stonechat; S. t. maura, the Siberian stonechat; and S. t. axillaris, an African stonechat) and stonechats from seven European populations were examined. While variation within the populations of the European subspecies was less than 0.3%, the genetic distances between the subspecies were substantial (2.7-5.7%) in comparison with published data for subspecies of other birds. If speciation is indeed reflected in the cytochrome-b gene of stonechats, species status for the African stonechat, but also for the Siberian taxon, should be reconsidered, especially in the light of differences in distributions, morphology and habitat preference.