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Research article2020Peer reviewed

Taxonomy of cryptic species in theCyornis rubeculoidescomplex in the Indian subcontinent

Singh, Ashutosh; Gupta, Sandeep K.; Alstrom, Per; Mohan, Dhananjai; Hooper, Daniel M.; Kumar, Ramani S.; Bhatt, Dinesh; Singh, Pratap; Price, Trevor D.


Taxa classified as subspecies may in fact be cryptic species. We assessed the taxonomic status of the Blue-throated FlycatcherCyornis rubeculoidescomplex in India, which consists of several forms with similar plumages and song. We used mitochondrial and nuclearDNA, plumage traits, and detailed song analysis to ascertain the taxonomic status of the different forms. The molecular data identified three primary clades: (1) in the west Himalayan foothills, (2) at higher elevations in the northeast hill states of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram, and (3) at lower elevations in the northeastern hills of Meghalaya and the east Himalayas of Arunachal Pradesh. The western clade represents nominateC. rubeculoides rubeculoides. The high-elevation eastern clade was considered to beC. rubeculoides rogersi, because it included a sample from this subspecies from near the type locality in southwest Myanmar. These two sister clades had an estimated divergence time of 1.5 million years (my). The low-elevation east clade has previously been assigned toC. rubeculoides, but we showed it is closely related to the Hainan Blue FlycatcherCyornis hainanus, formerly thought to breed only further east, with an estimated divergence time of only ~0.8 my. This clade may represent a subspecies ofC. hainanusor, given reports of widespread sympatry withC. hainanusin Thailand, a distinct species,Cyornis dialilaemus. However, more research is advocated, including molecular data, from the area of overlap. Songs were remarkably similar across all taxa. In playback experiments,C. r. rubeculoidesin the west responded to all taxa. This is in agreement with recent work demonstrating that song differences and responses to songs are not always a good indicator of the progress of reproductive isolation.


flycatcher; phylogeny; songs; song playback

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2020, Volume: 162, number: 3, pages: 924-935
Publisher: WILEY

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