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Research article2011Peer reviewed

The Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis - three anciently separated cryptic species revealed

Alström, Per; Saitoh, Takema; Williams, Dawn; Nishiumi, Isao; Shigeta, Yoshimitsu; Ueda, Keisuke; Irestedt, Martin; Björklund, Mats; Olsson, Urban


The Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis breeds across the northern Palaearctic and northwestern-most Nearctic, from northern Scandinavia to Alaska, extending south to southern Japan, and winters in Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Several subspecies have been described based on subtle morphological characteristics, although the taxonomy varies considerably among different authors. A recent study (T. Saitoh et al. (2010) BMC Evol. Biol. 10: 35) identified three main mitochondrial DNA clades, corresponding to: (1) continental Eurasia and Alaska, (2) south Kamchatka, Sakhalin and northeast Hokkaido, and (3) most of Japan (Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu). These three clades were estimated to have diverged during the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene (border at c. 2.6 million years ago). Differences in morphometrics have also been reported among members of the three clades (T. Saitoh et al. (2008) Ornithol. Sci. 7: 135-142). Here we analyse songs and calls from throughout the range of the Arctic Warbler, and conclude that these differ markedly and consistently among the populations representing the three mitochondrial clades. Kurile populations, for which no sequence data are available, are shown to belong to the second clade. To determine the correct application of available scientific names, mitochondrial DNA was sequenced from three name-bearing type specimens collected on migration or in the winter quarters. Based on the congruent variation in mitochondrial DNA, morphology and vocalizations, we propose that three species be recognized: Arctic Warbler Phylloscopus borealis (sensu stricto) (continental Eurasia and Alaska), Kamchatka Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus examinandus (Kamchatka (at least the southern part), Sakhalin, Hokkaido and Kurile Islands), and Japanese Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus xanthodryas (Japan except Hokkaido).


cryptic species; cytochrome-b; phylogeny; taxonomy; vocalizations

Published in

2011, Volume: 153, number: 2, pages: 395-410

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    UKÄ Subject classification

    Biological Systematics
    Evolutionary Biology

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