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Keywords:

  • Charadriiformes;
  • island biogeography;
  • molecular phylogeny;
  • Polynesia;
  • Scolopacidae

With only a single extant representative, endemic to the Tuamotu Archipelago, the Polynesian sandpipers (Aechmorhynchus and Prosobonia) may have had a larger distribution in Eastern Polynesia in the past, with four endemic taxa. Although these aberrant sandpipers' membership to the Scolocapidae has been well supported, finding their closest living taxa has proved difficult and the phylogenetic relationships of these taxa have remained unresolved. We present the first molecular analysis of the Polynesian sandpipers, including sampling of the only known specimen of the extinct Prosobonia leucoptera, collected in 1773. Based on mitochondrial and nuclear gene sequence data, the phylogenetic analyses demonstrate that the Polynesian sandpipers were sister taxa and belonged to the clade that included the other sandpipers (Calidris and allies) and turnstones (Arenaria), although without a close relative among extant genera. Divergence time estimates suggested that the lineage leading to Prosobonia diverged from the other extant sandpipers during the Oligocene and that either the Line Islands or the Tuamotu Archipelago were probably the first archipelagos colonized by the Prosobonia lineage. On the basis of these results, we suggest that Aechmorhynchus parvirostris and Prosobonia leucoptera be regarded as related species within the same genus, and thus that the senior name Prosobonia be used for both taxa.