, Volume 147, Issue 3, pp 448-456
Date: 07 Dec 2005

Rhodopechys obsoleta (desert finch): a pale ancestor of greenfinches (Carduelis spp.) according to molecular phylogeny

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The evolutionary history of three out of four birds traditionally classified into the genus Rhodopechys birds has been studied by comparing their mitochondrial cytochrome b DNA sequence with that of greenfinches and other genus Carduelis finches. The desert finch (Rhodopechys obsoleta) or a sister extinct species seems to have existed about 6 million years ago in Asian and perhaps African desert-like areas. This bird has no molecular relationship with other Rhodopechys birds and seems to have given rise to the greenfinches radiation, probably by allopatry of marginal or isolated groups; the latter would have evolved to green plumage colours and more simple song modulations (i.e., greenfinches). The possible role of assortative mating and the newly postulated acquired phenotypic characters in greenfinches speciation are discussed.

Communicated by A. Helbig