Phylogeny and biogeography of Yellow-headed and Blue-fronted Parrots (Amazona ochrocephala and Amazona aestiva) with special reference to the South American taxa


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The Yellow-headed Parrot (Amazona ochrocephala) has a broad Neotropical distribution, ranging from Mexico to the Amazon Basin, and a history of complex taxonomy and controversial species limits. Recent molecular analyses have started to clarify the taxonomic arrangement of the complex, but have not included a representative geographical sampling from South America. These studies have shown that the Yellow-headed complex can be divided into three main lineages, and seems to be paraphyletic, due to the inclusion of the Blue-fronted Parrot (Amazona aestiva) that occurs in central South America. Here we present a phylogenetic analysis based on mitochondrial DNA sequences of 45 representatives of the Yellow-headed complex from South and Central America, plus 13 Blue-fronted individuals from different localities in South America. Our analyses recover the three primary lineages found previously in the Yellow-headed complex, show that there is genetic structure in the South American lineage, which can be divided into two well-supported, closely related clades, and demonstrate that Blue-fronted samples are distributed in both clades. Differentiation of South American Blue-fronted and Yellow-headed Parrot populations does not correspond to the plumage differences used to distinguish the Blue-fronted Parrot from the Yellow-headed Parrot, nor to plumage differences used to distinguish among South American Yellow-headed subspecies. This suggests that traditional taxonomy based on plumage characters needs revision, and that this may be an interesting example of ongoing divergence-with-gene-flow related to the forest/open area ecotone in southern Amazonia.