Thursday, June 12, 2014

[Ornithology • 2014] Molecular and Phenotypic Data Support the Recognition of the Wakatobi Flowerpecker Dicaeum kuehni from the Unique and Understudied Sulawesi Region

male Wakatobi Flowerpecker Dicaeum kuehni Hartert, 1903
from the Wakatobi archipelago, the Sulawesi region of Indonesia

Accurate estimates of species richness are essential to macroecological and macroevolutionary research, as well as to the effective management and conservation of biodiversity. The resolution of taxonomic relationships is therefore of vital importance. While molecular methods have revolutionised taxonomy, contemporary species delimitation requires an integrative, multi-disciplinary approach. Despite boasting a remarkably high level of endemism, the avifauna of the Sulawesi region of Indonesia remains poorly studied. Previous studies of avian diversity in Sulawesi have focussed predominantly on phenotypic characteristics, thus potentially overlooking any genetically distinct lineages. Grey-sided Flowerpecker Dicaeum celebicum populations from the Wakatobi archipelago were originally described as a separate species from those on nearby mainland Sulawesi. However, for reasons that remain unknown, the Wakatobi populations were reclassified as a subspecies of the mainland form. Combining estimates of genetic divergence with phylogenetic and morphological analyses, we reassessed the status of Wakatobi populations. Our results describe the Wakatobi populations as a separate species to those on mainland Sulawesi; reproductively isolated, genetically and morphologically distinct. We therefore recommend the reclassification of these populations to their original status of Dicaeum kuehni and propose the vernacular name ‘Wakatobi Flowerpecker’. In consideration of our findings and the lack of integrative ornithological research within the Sulawesi region, we believe species richness and avian endemism within the region are underestimated.

Figure 3. A comparison of overall plumage characteristics between male (top row) and female (bottom row) flowerpeckers.
(Left) Grey-sided flowerpeckers Dicaeum celebicum from mainland Sulawesi
(Right) Wakatobi flowerpeckers Dicaeum kuehni from the archipelago. 

Seán B. A. Kelly, David J. Kelly, Natalie Cooper, Andi Bahrun, Kangkuso Analuddin and Nicola M. Marples. 2014. Molecular and Phenotypic Data Support the Recognition of the Wakatobi Flowerpecker (Dicaeum kuehni) from the Unique and Understudied Sulawesi Region. PLoS ONE. 9(6): e98694. doi: