Species delimitation in the Hwamei Garrulax canorus


*Corresponding author. Email: t43028@ntnu.edu.tw


Due to the male's elaborate songs, the Hwamei Garrulax canorus is the most popular caged bird in the global Chinese community. Three allopatric Hwamei subspecies have been described: G. c. canorus in central and southern China and northern Indochina, G. c. owstoni from Hainan and G. c. taewanus from Taiwan. We sequenced the entire mitochondrial cytochrome b gene to reconstruct the molecular intraspecific phylogeny of the Hwamei. Molecular phylogenetic trees indicated that individuals of the three subspecies formed three monophyletic clades with high bootstrap support (> 95%). The basal clade was G. c. taewanus. According to a conventional molecular clock (2% divergence per million years), G. c. taewanus split from the other Hwamei taxa around 1.5 million years ago, and G. c. owstoni diverged from G. c. canorus around 0.6 million years ago. Considering the periodic connection between the Asian mainland and nearby continental islands during the glacial periods, habitat vicariance may have played a more important role than geographical vicariance in facilitating the differentiation of these taxa. Molecular diagnosability, population integrity, and concordance between the population ranges and the topology of the phylogenetic tree suggested that the Hwamei should be delimited into at least two full species: G. canorus and G. taewanus. Our work represents one of the first attempts to re-evaluate the intraspecific systematics for an eastern Asian bird species using molecular data.