Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 1283–1298 | Cite as

Stepping stone speciation in Hawaii’s flycatchers: molecular divergence supports new island endemics within the elepaio

  • Eric A. VanderWerfEmail author
  • Lindsay C. Young
  • Norine W. Yeung
  • David B. Carlon
Research Article


The elepaio (Chasiempis sandwichensis) is a monarch flycatcher endemic to the Hawaiian Islands of Kauai, Oahu, and Hawaii. Elepaio vary in morphology among and within islands, and five subspecies are currently recognized. We investigated phylogeography of elepaio using mitochondrial (ND2) and nuclear (LDH) markers and population structure within Hawaii using ND2 and microsatellites. Phylogenetic analyses revealed elepaio on each island formed reciprocally monophyletic groups, with Kauai ancestral to other elepaio. Sequence divergence in ND2 among islands (3.02–2.21%) was similar to that in other avian sibling species. Estimation of divergence times using relaxed molecular clock models indicated elepaio colonized Kauai 2.33 million years ago (95% CI 0.92–3.87 myr), Oahu 0.69 (0.29–1.19) myr ago, and Hawaii 0.49 (0.21–0.84) myr ago. LDH showed less variation than ND2 and was not phylogenetically informative. Analysis of molecular variance within Hawaii showed structure at ND2 (fixation index = 0.31), but microsatellites showed no population structure. Genetic, morphological, and behavioral evidence supports splitting elepaio into three species, one on each island, but does not support recognition of subspecies within Hawaii or other islands. Morphological variation in elepaio has evolved at small geographic scales within islands due to short dispersal distances and steep climatic gradients. Divergence has been limited by lack of dispersal barriers in the extensive forest that once covered each island, but anthropogenic habitat fragmentation and declines in elepaio population size are likely to decrease gene flow and accelerate differentiation, especially on Oahu.


Chasiempis Elepaio Hawaii Phylogeography Population structure Relaxed clock 



For assistance in mist-netting elepaio, we thank Joby Rohrer, Matthew Burt, Kapua Kawelo, John Polhemus, Stephen Mosher, Phil Taylor, Keith Swindle, Dan Sailer, Ethan Shiinoki, Amy Tsuneyoshi, Marcos Gorresen, Pauline Roberts, Jeremy Russell, and Lucas Behnke. Permits to capture elepaio and collect blood samples were provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife. Access was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Hawaii Natural Area Reserves System, the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, the U.S. Army, the Damon Estate, and the City and County of Honolulu Board of Water Supply. Permission to capture and collect blood samples from the Tinian monarch was provided by the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Division of Fish and Wildlife. We thank Catherine Lippe and Joanna Kobayashi for lab assistance, Chris Filardi for discussion and advice, and Ken Hayes for technical assistance and comments on the manuscript. This work was supported in part by the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the University of Hawaii Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology Program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric A. VanderWerf
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lindsay C. Young
    • 2
  • Norine W. Yeung
    • 2
  • David B. Carlon
    • 2
  1. 1.Pacific Rim ConservationHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology Program, Department of ZoologyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA

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