Get access

The use of subspecies in the systematics of southern African white-eyes: historical entities or eco-geographic variants

Authors

  • G. Oatley,

    1. Department of Zoology, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
    Search for more papers by this author
  • R. C. K. Bowie,

    1. Department of Zoology, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
    2. Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Department of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • T. M. Crowe

    1. Department of Zoology, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
    Search for more papers by this author

  • Editor: Jean-Nicolas Volff

Correspondence
Graeme Oatley, Department of Zoology, DST/NRF Centre of Excellence at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa.
E-mail: Graeme.Oatley@uct.ac.za

Abstract

The recognition of objectively diagnosable and evolutionarily significant terminal taxa, that is, evolutionarily significant units (ESU), is essential for the generation of defensible taxic hypotheses necessary for all forms of evolutionary and comparative biology and for effective guiding of biodiversity conservation. However, there has been a long and on-going, sometimes heated debate, on the merits of the subspecies category in this endeavour. To determine possible ESU present in southern African white-eyes, Zosterops spp., we used uni- and multivariate statistical approches to re-investigate the morphological characteristics (morphometric and plumage coloration) used in past taxonomic studies to propose nine putative southern African Zosterops ESU, described at the time as subspecies. Four ESU emerged from these analyses. Geographical, discriminatory, multifaceted analyses suggest that these four taxa, Z. senegalensis, Z. virens, Z. capensis and Z. pallidus warrant species status.

Ancillary