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Bioacoustic and multi-locus DNA data of Ninox owls support high incidence of extinction and recolonisation on small, low-lying islands across Wallacea

Gwee, Chyi Yin, Christidis, Les, Eaton, James A., Norman, Janette A., Trainor, Colin R., Verbelen, Philippe, Rheindt, Frank E.
Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 2017 v.109 pp. 246-258
DNA, Ninox novaeseelandiae, altitude, bioacoustics, extinction, indigenous species, islands, species diversity, Australasian region, Australia
Known for their rich biodiversity and high level of endemism, the islands of Wallacea serve as natural laboratories for the study of spatio-temporal evolution and patterns of species diversification. Our study focuses on the owl genus Ninox, particularly the Southern Boobook (N. novaeseelandiae) and Moluccan Boobook (N. squamipila) complexes, which are widely distributed across Australasia. We conducted bioacoustic and multi-locus DNA analyses of 24 Ninox owl taxa to evaluate relationships and levels of divergence within the two complexes and ultimately assess the relationship between patterns of taxonomic differentiation and bioclimatic factors. We found that taxa that are vocally and/or genetically distinct from populations on the Australian mainland are found on islands that are significantly larger and higher in altitude than taxa that are vocally and/or genetically indistinct from populations on the Australian mainland. This pattern suggests that taxa occurring on small, low-lying Wallacean islands are likely to be recent colonisers that have dispersed from Australia. Overall, our observations demonstrate that the genus Ninox is likely to have colonised the Wallacean region multiple times as small, low-lying islands undergo frequent extinction, whereas populations on large and high-altitude islands are more resilient.