The Taiwan Firecrest (Regulus goodfellowi) belongs to the Goldcrest assemblage (Regulus regulus s. l.): evidence from mitochondrial DNA and the territorial song of the Regulidae
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- Päckert, M., Martens, J. & Severinghaus, L.L. J Ornithol (2009) 150: 205. doi:10.1007/s10336-008-0335-5
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We evaluated the phylogenetic relationships of the Taiwan Firecrest or Flamecrest, Regulus goodfellowi, on the basis of two mitochondrial markers (cytochrome b, 16S rRNA) and territorial song. Genetic samples from eighteen subspecies of all currently accepted crest and kinglet species were available for comparison. In all molecular tree reconstructions it was clearly apparent the Taiwan endemic species was the sister species of all the palearctic Goldcrests (Regulus regulus) from Bayesian inference of phylogeny, although with weak bootstrap support and conflicting position in the ML and NJ trees. Genetic distances based on cyt-b sequences between R. goodfellowi and subspecies of R. regulus ranged between 6.1 and 8.2%. Two separate divergence time estimates dated the colonization of Taiwan to the mid to late Pliocene from 5–2 Mya. The high-pitched territorial songs of R. goodfellowi strongly resemble those of Sino-Himalayan Goldcrests (ssp. himalayensis, sikkimensis, and yunnanensis), but the terminal flourish typical of Goldcrests is invariable and only rarely included in songs of R. goodfellowi. Discriminant analysis of spectral and temporal characteristics separated the songs of the Southeast Asian populations from those of two other large clusters, the Canarian and Northwest Palearctic. Songs of R. goodfellowi were 100% correctly assigned and well distinguishable from Sino–Himalayan songs. Cluster analysis of Regulus songs strongly corroborated the sister group relationship of R. goodfellowi and R. regulus as reconstructed from concatenated mitochondrial sequence data. All results from molecular and acoustic analysis justify the species rank of the Taiwan endemic species and suggest that it is only distantly related to the firecrest clade (R. ignicapillus, R. madeirensis).