Phylogenetic relationships based on two mitochondrial genes and hybridization patterns in Anatidae


  • Editor: Jean-Nicolas Volff

Javier Gonzalez, Institut für Pharmazie und Molekulare Biotechnologie, Abteilung Biologie, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 364, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


We produced DNA sequence data from two mitochondrial genes (cytochrome b and the NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2) to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships among 121 species of the Anseriformes (waterfowls including ducks, geese, swans, the magpie goose and screamers). Phylogenetic analyses converged into a congruent topology and defined several well-supported clades. We calibrated a molecular clock and reconstructed ancestral biogeographical areas using Bayesian inference supporting an austral continental (Gondwanaland) origin of the waterfowls. Ducks, swans and geese might have diversified during the Miocene (23–5 Myr ago) reaching northern distributions in Holarctic and Afrotropical regions. The evolution of hybridization patterns in Anseriformes has been investigated using a cladistic analysis (morphology), which may underestimate or overestimate the phylogenetic divergence among species, or restricted only to ducks. Using a phylogenetic framework, genetic-based distances and a Bayesian time calibration, our data support the hypothesis based on immunological distances of slow rate of appearance of reproductive incompatibilities in waterfowls compared with other vertebrates and the view that these birds may be like frogs in having lost their interspecific hybridization potential more slowly than mammals.