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Data from: Incorporating color into integrative taxonomy: analysis of the varied tit (Sittiparus varius) complex in East Asia

By Bailey D. McKay, Herman L. Mays Jr., Cheng-te Yao, Dongmei Wan, Hiroyoshi Higuchi and Isao Nishiumi


Species designations are critically important scientific hypotheses that serve as the foundational units in a wide range of biological subdisciplines. A growing realization that some classes of data fail to delimit species under certain conditions has led to increasingly more integrative taxonomies, whereby species discovery and hypothesis testing are based on multiple kinds of data (e.g. morphological, molecular, behavioral, ecological, etc.). However, although most taxonomic descriptions have been based on morphology, some key morphological features, such as color, are rarely quantified and incorporated into integrative taxonomic studies. In this paper, we applied a new method of ultraviolet digital photography to measure plumage variation in a color-variable avian species complex, the varied tit (Sittiparus varius). Plumage measurements corroborated species limits defined by morphometric, mitochondrial DNA, and nuclear DNA disjunctions and provided the only evidence for recognizing two recently evolved species. Importantly, color quantification also provided a justification for lumping putative taxa with no evidence of evolutionary independence. Our revised taxonomy thus refines conservation units for listing and management and clarifies the primary units for evolutionary studies. Species tree analyses, which applied the newly delimited species as operational taxonomic units, revealed a robust phylogenetic hypothesis for the group that establishes a foundation for future biogeographic analyses. Our study demonstrates how digital photography can be used to incorporate color character variation into integrative taxonomies, which should lead to more informed, more rigorous, and more accurate assessments of biodiversity

Topics: Life sciences, medicine and health care
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.5061/dryad.6q44t
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