Pacific Conservation Biology Pacific Conservation Biology Society
A journal dedicated to conservation and wildlife management in the Pacific region.
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Placing the Fijian Honeyeaters within the meliphagid radiation: implications for origins and conservation

Mere Yabaki A F , Richard C. Winkworth B , Patricia A. McLenachan B , William Aalbersberg C , Linton Winder D , Steven A. Trewick E and Peter J. Lockhart B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, University of the South Pacific, Private Bag, Suva, Fiji.

B Institute of Fundamental Sciences, Massey University, PO Box 11122, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.

C Institute of Applied Sciences, University of the South Pacific, Private Bag, Suva, Fiji.

D Department of Forestry and Resource Management, Waiariki Institute of Technology, Private Bag 3028, Rotorua 3046, New Zealand.

E Institute of Agriculture and Environment, Massey University, PO Box 11122, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.

F Corresponding author. Email: yabaki_m@usp.ac.fj

Pacific Conservation Biology 22(3) 262-271 https://doi.org/10.1071/PC14932
Submitted: 16 December 2014  Accepted: 22 March 2016   Published: 6 June 2016

Abstract

Understanding the evolutionary relationships of threatened species provides an important framework for making decisions about their conservation. However, unrecognised problems with the underlying phylogenetic analyses may bias the decision-making process. Recent phylogenetic studies have improved our understanding of Meliphagidae, but also indicate discordance between molecular datasets. Here, we examine the causes of this discordance using maximum likelihood tree-building and network analyses of identically sampled datasets for four genetic loci. Our results suggest that while we can be reasonably confident of relationships within species groups, discordance within and between molecular datasets tends to obscure relationships towards the base of the meliphagid tree. This ongoing uncertainty likely reflects differences in the sampling of markers and taxa between previously published analyses. To avoid the problems of conflicting data we used divergence time analyses of only the most densely sampled marker, NADH-ubiquinone oxidoreductase chain 2, to investigate the age and origins of the Fijian Meliphagidae. Our analyses suggest two temporally distinct colonisations of the Fijian archipelago. The large-bodied honeyeaters arrived ~15.6 million years ago, subsequently diversifying and spreading to Tonga and Samoa. In contrast, Myzomela appears to have arrived within the last 5.0 million years. The phylogenetic results therefore imply that conserving the evolutionary diversity of Meliphagidae in Polynesia requires that effort be spread across both the currently recognised taxa and geographical range.

Additional keywords: Austro-Pacific, conflicting data, divergence time analysis, Meliphagidae, phylogenetic analysis.


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