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The Andean Hapalopsittaca parrots (Psittacidae, Aves): an example of montane-tropical lowland vicariance





Corresponding author: Esther Quintero, Department of Ornithology, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY 10024, USA. E-mail:
Present address for Esther Quintero, Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO), Coordinación de Especies Prioritarias, Liga Periférico-Insurgentes Sur 4903, 3er piso, Parques del Pedregal, Tlalpan 14010, México D.F.
Camila C. Ribas, Coordenação de Biodiversidade, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Manaus, Brazil. E-mail:
Joel Cracraft, Department of Ornithology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA. E-mail:


Quintero, E., Ribas, C. C. & Cracraft, J. (2012). The Andean Hapalopsittaca parrots (Psittacidae, Aves): an example of montane-tropical lowland vicariance. —Zoologica Scripta, 42, 28–43.

We describe a phylogenetic and biogeographical pattern connecting high montane biotas to those of the lowlands, as exemplified by the exclusively montane parrot genus Hapalopsittaca and its lowland sister genus Pyrilia, both nested within Tavares et al.’s “amazons and allies” clade. As Hapalopsittaca is the only genus within the “amazons and allies” clade that is exclusively distributed in the Andes, the optimization leads to the inference that the ancestral distribution of the branch leading to Pyrilia + Hapalopsittaca was lowland. Museum specimens were examined to determine basal diagnosably distinct taxonomic units. Based on this analysis, mitochondrial sequences (cyt b and ND2 genes) from 17 individuals, mostly from toe pads, and representing all basal taxa within Hapalopsittaca, were obtained. A divergence-dating analysis using both nuclear (RAG-1) and mitochondrial (cyt b) genes was conducted to explore whether the uplift of the Andes coincides temporarily with the origin of this montane group, and thus might be causally linked to its origin. Molecular dating estimates the split between Hapalopsittaca and Pyrilia to have occurred between 6.6 and 8.0 Myr; thus, the timing of this highland/lowland disjunction is consistent with that of the final uplift of the Central Andes, supporting a hypothesis of vicariance due to Andean uplift. These results suggest that the taxonomic assembly of montane biotas may be, at least in part, explained by events of Earth history rather than by long-distance dispersal and colonization. Diversification within Hapalopsittaca and the origin of current species are more recent in time and probably are related to Pleistocene climatic oscillations, as has been shown in other montane groups.