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Stable isotopes and mtDNA reveal niche segregation but no evidence of intergradation along a habitat gradient in the Lesser Whitethroat complex (Sylvia curruca; Passeriformes; Aves)
Univ Exeter, Environm & Sustainabil Inst, Penryn Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, Cornwall, England..
Univ Exeter, Ctr Ecol & Conservat, Penryn Campus, Penryn TR10 9EZ, Cornwall, England..
Univ Plymouth, Marine Biol & Ecol Res Ctr, Plymouth, Devon, England..
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2016 (English)In: Journal of Ornithology = Journal fur Ornithologie, ISSN 0021-8375, E-ISSN 1439-0361, Vol. 157, no 4, 1017-1027 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Niche segregation plays a critical role in the speciation process, but determining the extent to which taxa are geographically or ecologically isolated is challenging. In this study, we use stable isotopes of carbon (delta C-13), nitrogen (delta N-15), hydrogen (delta H-2) and oxygen (delta O-18) to test for ecological differences among taxa in the Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca complex. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) revealed 6 distinct haplotype groups, which conform to at least 5 distinct taxa. Stable isotopes provided insight into geographical and broad-scale ecological differences among haplotypes. The most striking isotope differences were between the populations inhabiting Siberian boreal forest (S. c. blythi) from the one inhabiting semi-desert in Kazakhstan (S. c. halimodendri). It is generally assumed that these two populations form a morphological cline along a gradient from mesic to xeric habitat. Our sample includes a large proportion of morphologically intermediate individuals that appear to represent a hybrid population. However, in all of these, there is strict correspondence between haplotype and isotope signature, suggesting an ecological division on the breeding grounds between all our samples of these two taxa. The lack of ecologically intermediate individuals among our sample of morphologically intermediate ones thus speaks against the existence of a cline. The two taxa blythi and halimodendri emerge as potential models for the study of the early stages of the speciation process. While differences in stable isotopes may be largely influenced by geography, we also demonstrate how, in specific instances (such as the alleged cline reported here), they may be used to evaluate niche segregation between taxa, providing information of importance for determination of species limits.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 157, no 4, 1017-1027 p.
Keyword [en]
delta C-13, delta N-15, delta O-18, delta H-2, Phylogeography, Speciation, Warbler, Sylvia curruca, Cline, Stable isotopes
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-305326DOI: 10.1007/s10336-016-1351-5ISI: 000382944500009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-305326DiVA: diva2:1037378
Available from: 2016-10-14 Created: 2016-10-14 Last updated: 2016-10-14Bibliographically approved

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Alström, Per
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Animal ecology
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