Phylogeny and phylogeography of critically endangered Gyps species based on nuclear and mitochondrial markers
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Populations of Oriental White-backed Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) and Long-billed Vulture (Gyps indicus) dramatically declined by 95–100% on the Indian subcontinent in mid-1990s. The present study was conducted to discover the phylogeny and phylogeography of Gyps species based on nuclear (recombination activating gene, RAG-1) and mitochondrial (cytochrome b, cytb) markers. Gyps species showed monophyly and no geographic partition was observed within the three groups of Gyps species (G. bengalensis, G. indicus and G. fulvus) despite the large sample size available (n = 149). Our study supports the treatment of G. indicus and G.tenuirostris as separate species. In all analyses, the earliest divergence separated G. bengalensis from all other Gyps taxa while a sister relationship was supported between G. fulvus and G. rueppellii, and these two taxa together were sister group to a clade consisting of G. indicus, G. tenuirostris and G. coprotheres. Molecular clock estimates of both nuclear and mitochondrial (RAG-1, cytb) genes indicated a rapid and recent diversification within the Gyps species.