One of the best examples of differentiation and hybridization among South American passerine birds is exhibited by Icterus cayanensis (Epaulet Oriole) and Icterus chrysocephalus (Moriche Oriole). Icterus chrysocephalus is a monotypic species restricted to northern South America. Icterus cayanensis is a polytypc species that ranges from Suriname and French Guyana to northern Argentina. Five subspecies are recognized to I. cayanensis. Hybrid zones are known between I. cayanensis and I. chrysocephalus as well as between subspecies of I. cayanenis, even though character variation has never been adequately assessed and mapped. Although molecular data support the hypothesis that I. cayanensis and I. chrysocephalus form a monophyletic group, they do not support the species limits currently recognized within this group. We analysed the geographic variation of plumage characters along the range of this group to map the geographic variation of individual plumage characters and identify the populations that have uniform phenotypic character expression and therefore represent genuine phylogenetic species. We also used molecular data to investigate the phylogenetic relationships among these species. Geographic variation of plumage characters, habitat preferences and molecular data identified four species within I. cayanensis-chrysocephalus clade: an Amazonian species group, formed by I. cayanensis and I. chrysocephalus and a Southern species group composed of I. pyrrhopterus and I. tibialis. The Amazonian species are separated by a relatively narrow hybrid zone along the Amazon valley, whereas the Southern species are separated by a hybrid zone that is larger than the ranges of the two species individually.
- Epaulet oriole
- Geographic variation
- Moriche oriole
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics