Cryptic species in a Neotropical parrot: genetic variation within the Amazona farinosa species complex and its conservation implications
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The application of genetic approaches has enhanced the identification of cryptic species in a wide variety of taxa, often with immediate conservation implications. Here, we employed multilocus DNA analyses to assess genetic variation and its correspondence to taxonomy within the Mealy Amazon (Amazona farinosa), a parrot species found in Central and South America. DNA sequence data from four mitochondrial regions and two nuclear introns were used to infer relationships among all five named subspecies in this species complex. Two reciprocally monophyletic groups with strong nodal support were found; one comprised of the two Central American subspecies guatemalae and virenticeps and one including all three South American subspecies farinosa, chapmani, and inornata. Molecular characters diagnosed distinct Central American and South American lineages, with an estimated divergence time of 1.75–2.70 million years ago as inferred from cytochrome-b (3.5–5.4 % corrected distance). Our data support recognizing Central American and South American Mealy Amazons as separate species worthy of independent conservation management. Furthermore, our results suggest recognition of two separate management units within the South American clade, although further study is required. These findings have important conservation implications as Central American A. farinosa are under increased pressure from habitat destruction and collection for the pet trade, yet are listed as of Least Concern due to their current classification as subspecies’ subsumed within the species complex.
KeywordsCryptic species Mealy Amazon Neotropics Parrots Species complex
We are grateful to the following institutions for providing samples: Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia; Field Museum of Natural History; Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Sciences; Royal Ontario Museum; Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; University of Kansas Natural History Museum. We also thank J Gilardi for useful comments on this manuscript and K Wenner-Sherrell for assistance in developing figures. The World Parrot Trust provided funding for this research.
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