Conservation Genetics

, Volume 11, Issue 6, pp 2121–2129 | Cite as

Phylogeography and conservation of the endemic Hispaniolan Palm-Tanagers (Aves: Phaenicophilus)

  • Nicholas D. Sly
  • Andrea K. Townsend
  • Christopher C. Rimmer
  • Jason M. Townsend
  • Steven C. Latta
  • Irby J. Lovette
Research Article


The Gray-crowned Palm-Tanager (Phaenicophilus poliocephalus), sometimes considered conspecific with its more widespread congener P. palmarum, is restricted to Haiti’s Tiburon Peninsula, a biodiversity hotspot threatened by extensive habitat loss. We used a multilocus phylogeographic approach to identify evolutionarily distinct populations of Phaenicophilus. Mitochondrial haplotypes formed two reciprocally monophyletic groups separated by 5% uncorrected divergence. Genealogical patterns of differentiation at nuclear intron alleles were congruent with those of mtDNA, and the two species also differed in body size and shape. An ancient sea channel between the Tiburon Peninsula and mainland Haiti was likely a dispersal barrier that led to allopatric divergence, a hypothesis supported by our estimates of divergence times. Our results support the recognition of two Palm-Tanager species, confirming P. poliocephalus as Haiti’s only endemic bird species and underscoring the need to protect the Tiburon Peninsula’s single primary forest reserve.


Phaenicophilus Palm-Tanager Hispaniola Haiti Island Phylogeography 



We thank the many people who assisted with field work on Hispaniola, particularly J Almonte, J Brocca, E Cuevas, E Fernandez, E Garrido, J Gerwin, J Goetz, and J Klavins, as well as CA Makarewich. LM Stenzler, and AL Talaba for guidance and assistance with laboratory work. This research was supported by the Hughes Scholar Program, the Dextra Undergraduate Research Fund, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of Cornell University, the Benning Fund, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the American Ornithologists’ Union, the Tinker Foundation/Latin American Studies Program, the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department of Cornell University, NSF grants DEB-0515981 and DEB-0315218, the Blake Fund, the Carolyn Foundation, the Conservation and Research Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Stewart Foundation, the Thomas Marshall Foundation and friends of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. Authorization to conduct work in the Dominican Republic was provided by the Subsecretaria de Areas Protegidas and the Departamento de Vida Silvestre. Field studies in Haiti were authorized by the Ministry of Environment and Agriculture. We are especially grateful for logistical support in Haiti provided by Société Audubon Haiti, particularly P Bayard, J Vilmond, and F Sergile. Statistical analyses were carried out, in part, using the resources of the Computational Biology Service Unit from Cornell University which is partially funded by Microsoft Corporation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicholas D. Sly
    • 1
  • Andrea K. Townsend
    • 1
  • Christopher C. Rimmer
    • 2
  • Jason M. Townsend
    • 3
  • Steven C. Latta
    • 4
  • Irby J. Lovette
    • 1
  1. 1.Fuller Evolutionary Biology Program, Laboratory of OrnithologyCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Vermont Center for EcostudiesNorwichUSA
  3. 3.College of Environmental Science and ForestryState University of New YorkSyracuseUSA
  4. 4.National Aviary, Allegheny Commons WestPittsburghUSA

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