Sunday, February 23, 2014

[Ornithology • 2003] Hybrid Origin of the Imperial Pheasant Lophura imperialis (Delacour and Jabouille, 1924) demonstrated by Morphology, Hybrid Experiments, and DNA Analyses



Figure 3. Lophura imperialis (B) 
between its parental species, L. nycthemera (A) and L. edwardsi (C).
Painting by John Schmitt.

The imperial pheasant Lophura imperialis was described in 1924 from a captive pair that was obtained in Vietnam, and that became the sole founders of a captive line in France. Always considered a highly endangered and mysterious species, and despite concerted searches, L. imperialis was not found again in the wild until one was trapped in 1990, and the captive population gradually died out. Its status as a distinct species was unquestioned until the late 1990s when the possibility of a hybrid origin was raised. To elucidate the taxonomic status of L. imperialis, we studied all the existing museum specimens, carried out captive hybridization experiments, and analysed mitochondrial DNA and microsatellites. All these lines of evidence demonstrate congruently and conclusively that L. imperialis is an occasional hybrid between silver pheasant L. nycthemera and Edwards's pheasant L. edwardsi, with the 1990 bird probably being a hybrid between L. nycthemera and Vietnamese pheasant L. hatinhensis. Thus L. imperialis has no taxonomic standing and should be removed from lists of species of conservation concern. However, hybridization with L. nycthemera may pose a further threat to the survival in the wild of the endangered L. edwardsi and L. hatinhensis.

Keywords: conservation; Edwards's pheasant; fragmented habitat; hybridization; microsatellites; morphological analyses; mtDNA sequencing; silver pheasant


Imperial Pheasant Lophura imperialis
1997 Vietnam Stamp: Pheasants


Figure 3. Lophura imperialis (B) 
between its parental species, L. nycthemera (A) and L. edwardsi (C).
Painting by John Schmitt.


A. Hennache, P. Rasmussen, V. Lucchini, S. Rimondi, E. Randi. 2003. Hybrid Origin of the Imperial Pheasant Lophura imperialis (Delacour and Jabouille, 1924) demonstrated by Morphology, Hybrid Experiments, and DNA Analyses. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 80(4); 573-600.
doi: dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1095-8312.2003.00251.x


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