Main content area

The complex phylogeography of the Indo‐Malayan Alophoixus bulbuls with the description of a putative new ring species complex

Fuchs, Jérôme, Ericson, Per G.P., Bonillo, Céline, Couloux, Arnaud, Pasquet, Eric
Molecular ecology 2015 v.24 no.21 pp. 5460-5474
Passeriformes, biodiversity, birds, gene flow, lowlands, models, phylogeography, population growth, Thailand
The Indo‐Malayan bioregion has provided some of the most spectacular discoveries of new vertebrate species (e.g. saola, khanyou, bare‐faced bulbul) over the last 25 years. Yet, very little is known about the processes that led to the current biodiversity in this region. We reconstructed the phylogeographic history of a group of closely related passerines, the Alophoixus bulbuls. These birds are continuously distributed in Indo‐Malaya around the Thailand lowlands such that their distribution resembles a ring. Our analyses revealed a single colonization event of the mainland from Sundaland with sequential divergence of taxa from southwest to northeast characterized by significant gene flow between parapatric taxa, and reduced or ancient gene flow involving the two taxa at the extremities of the ring. We detected evidence of population expansion in two subspecies, including one that was involved in the closing of the ring. Hence, our analyses indicate that the diversification pattern of Alophoixus bulbuls fits a ring species model driven by geographic isolation. To our knowledge, the Alophoixus bulbuls represent the first case of a putative broken ring species complex in Indo‐Malaya. We also discuss the implications of our results on our understanding of the biogeography in Indo‐Malaya.