Molecular evolution in space and through time: mtDNA phylogeography of the Olive Sunbird (Nectarinia olivacea/obscura) throughout continental Africa
This study constitutes the first investigation of the phylogeographic structure of a forest bird distributed throughout the montane and lowland forest biomes of Africa. The key objective was to investigate the importance of Pleistocene climatic cycles on avian diversification across Africa. The Olive Sunbird is a relatively large polytypic sunbird widely distributed throughout evergreen, montane and coastal forests in Africa. Recently, it was split into two species, the Eastern Olive Sunbird (Nectarinia olivacea) and the Western Olive Sunbird (Nectarinia obscura), based on morphological grounds. Analyses of a 395bp fragment of the mtDNA NADH subunit 3 gene with flanking tRNA sequences, from 196 individuals of N. olivacea and 86 from N. obscura indicate that genetic divergence levels are low (1.0-2.4%) across some 9000km, from Ghana in the northwest of Africa to KwaZulu-Natal in eastern South Africa. Neither currently recognized Olive Sunbird species were monophyletic using either parsimony or likelihood tree-building methods. ΦST values suggested that there was less variation partitioned among species than between most neighboring regions. Genetic diversity within the N. olivacea/obscura complex was dominated by three star-like phylogenies linked to each other by a single mutational step and two subnetworks (IV and V) separated from the core star-like phylogenies (subnetworks I, II, and III) by five to six mutational steps. The dominant evolutionary mechanism shaping genetic variation within the N. olivacea/obscura complex as identified by nested-clade analyses, appears to be one of range expansion possibly out of East Africa associated with a period of forest expansion during the mid-Pleistocene, some 1.1-0.7 million years ago. Mismatch profiles suggested that secondary contact has occurred between eastern and western lineages within the Ufipa Escarpment and possibly Zimbabwe, as well as between eastern lineages in the Kenyan Highlands and northern Eastern Arc Mts. © 2004 Published by Elsevier Inc.