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Phylogeography, species limits, phylogeny, and classification of the turacos, with Utku Perktas

May 10, 2021


The bird family Musophagidae, commonly known as Turacos, are found only in sub-Saharan Africa. We used DNA sequences to examine patterns of evolution in the subfamily Musophaginae. Phylogeographic analysis revealed multiple instances of unexpectedly large divergences and cryptic taxa. Within both montane and lowland species, fixed haplotypes in disjunct populations suggest that they are evolutionarily independent with negligible recent gene flow. Two taxa originally described as subspecies, but not recognized for over 50 years, were found to be 100% diagnosable using mitochondrial sequences. The data also revealed that two traditional species, as well as all traditional superspecies complexes involving members of the genus Tauraco, are polyphyletic or paraphyletic.

Overall, our analyses of genetic and morphological variation revealed substantial and unexpected geographic diversity. We recognize 33 phylogenetic species and used DNA sequences to infer relationships among them. The results include all the phylogenetic species and, for the first time, nuclear data. We present a new classification of the Musophagidae based on our phylogeographic and phylogenetic results. We allocate the 33 species to seven previously recognized genera.



Utku Perktas is an ornithologist and evolutionary biologist, a faculty member at the Faculty of Science in Hacettepe University, manager of the Biogeography Research Laboratory, and for 9 years a research associate in the Department of Ornithology at the American Museum of Natural History. His work incorporates practical and theoretical experience ranging from field research and mu seum-based studies to molecular-based laboratory and analytical techniques. Much of his recent research uses DNA sequences to reconstruct phylogeographic hypotheses of vertebrate species, particularly birds. His latest interest is how past responses to climate changes may affect the history of species, and how this knowledge can be used for conservation.


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