Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 149, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Phylogeography of the blue tit (Parus teneriffae-group) on the Canary Islands based on mitochondrial DNA sequence data and morphometrics

  • Christian DietzenEmail author
  • Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey
  • Guillermo Delgado Castro
  • Michael Wink
Original Article


An analysis of the sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene (1005 bp) of the Parus teneriffae-group from the Canary Islands and North Africa revealed new insights into the phylogeography of this taxon. The origin of the radiation on the Canarian Archipelago was apparently one of the central islands—Tenerife or Gran Canaria. The populations on El Hierro (P. t. ombriosus) and La Palma (P. t. palmensis) represent distinct monophyletic lineages. Blue tits from Gran Canaria are genetically distinct from those of La Gomera and Tenerife (P. t. teneriffae), which supports the results of other studies and suggests the existence of an—until now—undescribed taxon there. In contrast, the populations on the eastern islands of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote (P. t. degener) could not be distinguished from North African blue tits (P. t. ultramarinus), and these populations should be subsumed under the subspecies ultramarinus. Taxonomic recommendations based on these results include the distinction of the northern European P. caeruleus from P. teneriffae, including blue tits from North Africa and the Canary Islands, the treatment of degener and ultramarinus as synonymous (P. teneriffae ultramarinus) and a new blue tit taxon on the island of Gran Canaria (P. t. hedwigii nov. ssp.), which is formally described. The genetic results are in parts supported by bioacoustic and morphological data.


Canary Islands Mitochondrial cytochrome b gene Morphometrics Parus caeruleus Parus teneriffae hedwigii nov. ssp Phylogeography 



Samples for genetic analyses included in this study were collected by the Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology (IPMB) (University of Heidelberg), the Museo de Ciencias Naturales (Organismo Autónomo de Museos y Centros, Tenerife) and Sociedad Ornitológica Canaria (SOC-Tenerife) with kind permission of the Consejería de Política Territorial y Medio Ambiente on the Canary Islands. We also thank the Department des Eaux et Forests, Royaume du Maroc, for the permission to collect samples in Morocco. Aurelio Martin and Felix Manuel Medina gave valuable advice and support during field trips to the Canary Islands. Hans-Hinrich Witt, Daniela Guicking and Marion Steinbüchel assisted during various field trips. Hedwig Sauer-Gürth gave invaluable technical assistance in the laboratory. Renate van den Elzen kindly provided access to the collection of blue tit specimens in the ‘Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig’ (ZFMK) in Bonn, Germany, and was helpful in tracking down some remote references. Javiér Gonzalez and Martin Päckert made valuable improvements on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Many and cordial thanks are due to all friends, colleagues and institutions. All experiments comply with the current laws of Germany and Spain.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Dietzen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Eduardo Garcia-del-Rey
    • 2
  • Guillermo Delgado Castro
    • 3
  • Michael Wink
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Pharmazie und Molekulare Biotechnologie (IPMB), Abt. BiologieUniversität HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Departamento de Ecologia, Facultad de BiologiaUniversidad de La LagunaLa LagunaSpain
  3. 3.Museo de Ciencias NaturalesOrganismo Autónomo de Museos y CentrosSanta Cruz de TenerifeSpain

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