Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 146, Issue 2, pp 103–110 | Cite as

On the phylogenetic position of the Okinawa woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii)

  • Hans WinklerEmail author
  • Nobuhiko Kotaka
  • Anita Gamauf
  • Franziska Nittinger
  • Elisabeth Haring
Original Article


The Okinawa woodpecker Sapheopipo noguchii is the rarest extant woodpecker species. The monotypic genus Sapheopipo was considered to be a representative of an old lineage of woodpeckers that led to the Eurasian genera Picus and the Blythipicus–Gecinulus species. This view, based on similarities in color patterns, external morphology and foraging behavior, has been adopted in all major accounts of the family. The alternative view, that this woodpecker may be related to the widespread white-backed woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos, which evolved distinctive subspecies on other East Asian islands, has not been generally accepted. We analyzed partial sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) gene to test these hypotheses. The data suggest that the Okinawa woodpecker is a member of the genus Dendrocopos, with white-backed woodpecker and great spotted woodpecker D. major as close relatives. Color patterns support the genetic results and indicate a closer relationship with the white-backed woodpecker. Consequently, the correct taxonomic designation of the Okinawa woodpecker would be Dendrocopos noguchii (Seebohm in Ibis 5(5):173–182, 1887) in the tribe Campetherini rather than Picini.


Picidae Phylogeny Island Sapheopipo Dendrocopos 



We thank K. Michalek, G. Frank, N. Schuller, and W. Kantner for providing tissue samples, and E. Bauernfeind (Museum of Natural History Vienna) and R. van den Elzen (Zoologisches Forschungsinstitut und Museum A. Koenig, Bonn) for access to specimens of the avian collections. We also acknowledge the excellent technical assistance by Clemens Küpper, and Barbara Däubl. The analyses were funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Commission for Interdisciplinary Studies; K. Lorenz Institute for Ethology) and the Natural History Museum, Vienna. W. J. Bock and R. Wagner provided helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, for which we are grateful.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans Winkler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Nobuhiko Kotaka
    • 2
  • Anita Gamauf
    • 3
  • Franziska Nittinger
    • 3
  • Elisabeth Haring
    • 3
  1. 1.Konrad Lorenz Institute for EthologyAustrian Academy of SciencesViennaAustria
  2. 2.Yambaru Wildlife Center, Ministry of the EnvironmentHiji, KunigamiJapan
  3. 3.Museum of Natural HistoryViennaAustria

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