Phylogeography of the Rufous vanga and the role of bioclimatic transition zones in promoting speciation within Madagascar

Jane Younger, Phoenix Dempster, Árpád S. Nyári, Talitha Helms, Marie J. Raherilalao, Steven M. Goodman, Sushma Reddy

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Madagascar is known as a biodiversity hotspot, providing an ideal natural laboratory for investigating the processes of avian diversification. Yet, the phylogeography of Madagascar’s avifauna is still largely unexamined. In this study, we evaluated phylogeographic patterns and species limits within the Rufous Vanga, Schetba rufa, a monotypic genus of forest-dwelling birds endemic to the island. Using an integrative taxonomic approach, we synthesized data from over 4000 ultra-conserved element (UCE) loci, mitochondrial DNA, multivariate morphometrics, and ecological niche modeling to uncover two reciprocally monophyletic, geographically circumscribed, and morphologically distinct clades of Schetba. The two lineages are restricted to eastern and western Madagascar, respectively, with distributions broadly consistent with previously described subspecies. Based on their genetic and morphological distinctiveness, the two subspecies merit recognition as separate species. The bioclimatic transition between the humid east and dry west of Madagascar likely promoted population subdivision and drove speciation in Schetba during the Pleistocene. Our study is the first evidence that an East-West bioclimatic transition zone played a role in the speciation of birds within Madagascar.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106535
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Early online date14 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • Diversification
  • Ecological niche modeling
  • Passeriformes
  • Phylogenetics
  • Schetba
  • Vangidae

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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