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

Jane L. Younger, Phoenix Dempster, Árpád S. Nyári, T. Olivia Helms, Marie Jeanne Raherilalao, Steven M. Goodman, Sushma Reddy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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 (US)
Article number106535
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
StatePublished - Oct 2019



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

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

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