Phylogenetic relationships of Amazonetta, Speculanas, Lophonetta, and Tachyeres: Four morphologically divergent duck genera endemic to South America

Mariana Bulgarella, Michael D. Sorenson, Jeffrey L. Peters, Robert E. Wilson, Kevin G. McCracken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We studied the phylogenetic relationships of four duck genera endemic to South America: Brazilian teal Amazonetta brasiliensis, spectacled duck Speculanas specularis, crested duck Lophonetta specularioides, and four species of steamer ducks Tachyeres patachonicus, T. leucocephalus, T. pteneres, T. brachypterus. Genetic divergence within and among species was compared using population-level sampling of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region, supplemented with three additional mtDNA genes and six independent nuclear loci from one individual of each species and a variety of outgroup taxa. The monophyly of these four morphologically divergent South American genera was strongly supported. Within this clade, Amazonetta and Speculanas were supported as sister species in all analyses, but different gene regions yielded conflicting or ambiguous results for Lophonetta and Tachyeres. This lack of resolution resulted from little informative variation in nuclear loci and high levels of homoplasy in the mtDNA control region. Control region sequences from the four Tachyeres species fell into two distinct clades. In one clade, T. patachonicus and T. leucocephalus share a set of closely related haplotypes (≤0.6% sequence divergence); while no identical haplotypes were shared between species, the control region phylogeny was insufficiently resolved to either support or reject reciprocal monophyly. The second clade, ~1.7% divergent from the first, comprised haplotypes of the Falkland Islands species T. brachypterus and a captive individual of T. pteneres. These distinctive South American ducks likely experienced two bouts of rapid diversification, thus making analysis of their phylogenetic relationships difficult. Incomplete lineage sorting, founder effects, and perhaps introgression likely have contributed to obscuring the relationships among steamer ducks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-199
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Avian Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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