First steps towards assessing the evolutionary history and phylogeography of a widely distributed Neotropical grassland bird (Motacillidae: Anthus correndera)
Norambuena, Heraldo V.
Van Els, Paul
Muñoz Ramírez, Carlos P.
Victoriano, Pedro F.
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Grasslands in southern South America are extensive ecosystems which harbor a unique biodiversity; however, studies on the evolution of their taxa are scarce. Here we studied the phylogeography and population history of the Correndera Pipit (Anthus correndera), a grassland specialist bird with a large breeding distribution in southern South America, with the goals of investigating its phylogeographic history and relate it to the historical development of South American grasslands. The mitochondrial NADH dehydrogenase subunit II gene (ND2) was sequenced in 66 individuals from 19 localities and the intron 9 of the sex-linked gene for aconitase (ACOI9) was sequenced from a subset of those individuals, including all five subspecies of A. correndera, as well as the closely related A. antarcticus. Phylogenetic analysis revealed two distinct lineages within the complex: the first (A) corresponding to Andean subspecies A. c. calcaratus and A. c. catamarcae and the second (B) including birds traditionally assigned to A. c. correndera, A. c. chilensis, A. c. grayi and some individuals of A. c. catamarcae. A. antarcticus is nested within this second lineage. These results were also supported by evidence of niche divergence for variables associated with precipitation. The oldest split between clade A and B was estimated at c. 0.37 Mya, during the middle Pleistocene. Species distribution models for the present and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) suggest that grassland areas in southern South America remained relatively stable, in contrast to the general view of a reduction in grassland cover in South America since the LGM. Recent divergences and low phylogeographic structure (for lowland vs. highland geographic groups, intra-population genetic variance was greater than inter-groups; e.g., for ACOI9: 95.47% and ND2: 51.51% respectively), suggest widespread gene flow between lowland populations.