Emu Emu Society
Journal of BirdLife Australia
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Evolutionary history of birds across southern Australia: structure, history and taxonomic implications of mitochondrial DNA diversity in an ecologically diverse suite of species

Gaynor Dolman A B C D and Leo Joseph A

A Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO National Research Collections Australia, GPO Box 1700, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia.

B Australian Centre for Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.

C Molecular Systematics Unit, Western Australian Museum, Locked Bag 49, Welshpool DC, WA 6986, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: gaynor.dolman@museum.wa.gov.au

Emu 115(1) 35-48 https://doi.org/10.1071/MU14047
Submitted: 7 May 2014  Accepted: 10 September 2014   Published: 9 February 2015

Abstract

Recent phylogeographic studies have examined the location and timing of putative Plio-Pleistocene biogeographical barriers in moulding present-day patterns of diversity in southern Australian vertebrates. We previously investigated the divergence history of an assemblage of southern Australian birds. Here we more explicitly incorporate idiosyncratic effects of dietary ecology and habitat on the long-term demographic stability and the presence or absence of genetic structure on each of 12 species of bird. Our data suggest that the Eyrean Barrier (Flinders Ranges–Lake Eyre Basin) has been critical in shaping present-day diversity, especially that of mesic and mallee environments, and that other barriers (e.g. Murchison Barrier, Nullarbor Barrier) have played a lesser role. In contrast, nectarivory and occurrence in patchily distributed habitats are correlated with weak or no phylogeographic structure. Population expansions were most prevalent in western parts of species’ ranges. Substantial genetic divergences accompanied by moderate or no phenotypic divergence challenge traditional approaches to taxonomy in the Blue Bonnet (Northiella haematogaster), Chestnut Quail-thrush (Cinclosoma castanotum), White-eared Honeyeater (Nesoptilotis leucotis) and Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang) and we suggest taxonomic treatments for each of these species that accommodate existing data. We elevate some taxa to species rank and note where further analyses of gene flow will be useful in clarifying remaining issues. Further phylogeographic study in the region of the Mount Lofty Ranges, Flinders Ranges, Spencer Gulf and Gulf St Vincent) of South Australia is warranted.

Additional keywords: Australian birds, biogeography, evolution, Eyrean Barrier, genetics, southern Australia.


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