in Martins, Cox, Irestedt, et al., 2020.
• Comprehensive molecular phylogeny of Afrotropical Zosteropidae.
• Likely single colonisation of the Afrotropical realm.
• Multiple independent colonisations of oceanic and ecological islands.
• An underestimation of mainland species diversity.
• Proposed revised taxonomy.
White-eyes (Zosterops) are a hyper-diverse genus of passerine birds that have rapidly radiated across the Afrotropics and Southeast Asia. Despite their broad range, a disproportionately large number of species are currently recognised from islands compared to the mainland. Described species-level diversity of this ‘great speciator’ from continental Africa-Arabia is strikingly low, despite the vast size and environmental complexity of this region. However, efforts to identify natural groups using traditional approaches have been hindered by the remarkably uniform morphology and plumage of these birds. Here, we investigated the phylogenetic relationships and systematics of Afrotropical Zosterops, including the Gulf of Guinea and western Indian Ocean islands. We included exceptional sampling (~160 individuals) from all except one subspecies of the 55 taxa (32 species, plus 23 additional named sub-species) currently recognized throughout the region, in addition to a subset of extra-Afrotropical taxa, by exploiting blood and archival samples. Employing a multi-locus phylogenetic approach and applying quantitative species delimitation we tested: (1) if there has been a single colonisation event of the Afrotropical realm; (2) if constituent mainland and island birds are monophyletic; and (3) if mainland diversity has been underestimated. Our comprehensive regional phylogeny revealed a single recent colonisation of the Afrotropical realm c.1.30 Ma from Asia, but a subsequent complex colonisation history between constituent island and mainland lineages during their radiation across this vast area. Our findings suggest a significant previous underestimation of continental species diversity and, based on this, we propose a revised taxonomy. Our study highlights the need to densely sample species diversity across ranges, providing key findings for future conservation assessments and establishing a robust framework for evolutionary studies.
Keywords: Cryptic species, Islands, Continents, Passeriformes, Species delimitation, Zosterops
Frederico C. Martins, Siobhan C. Cox, Martin Irestedt, Robert P. Prŷs-Jones and Julia J. Day. 2020. A Comprehensive Molecular Phylogeny of Afrotropical White-eyes (Aves: Zosteropidae) highlights Prior Underestimation of Mainland Diversity and Complex Colonisation History. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 149. 106843. DOI: 10.1016/j.ympev.2020.106843