Research Articles

High levels of mitochondrial cytochrome b sequence diversity are present within the Anthus similis complex in sub-Saharan Africa

Published in: Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology
Volume 84, issue 2, 2013 , pages: 145–151
DOI: 10.2989/00306525.2013.822028
Author(s): Brian FinchOrnithological Committee of the East African Natural History Society, Kenya, Gro Bjørnstad, Kenya, Itai ShanniSociety for Protection of Nature in Israel, Israel, Muchane MuchaiDepartment of Zoology, Ornithology Section, Kenya, Anne Bishop, Kenya, Olivier Hanotte, Kenya, Richard Bishop, Kenya


The taxonomy of pipits (genus Anthus) in sub-Saharan Africa is poorly understood. We applied mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) sequencing to specimens of the African Long-billed Pipit Anthus similis, using Palearctic A. s. captus for comparison. There was virtually no divergence among Kenyan A. similis specimens, and these differed by only c. 1.9% from Israeli A. s. captus. By contrast, the previously published African A. similis cyt b sequence, from a South African pipit, was very distinct from other A. similis, diverging by c. 6.2% and 7.2% from East African and Palearctic birds, respectively. A Tanzanian specimen clustered with the South African A. similis and also the recently described A. pseudosimilis, but exhibited 5.4% and 3.4% divergence, respectively, from these individuals. Our data confirmed that the African Woodland Pipit A. nyassae is genetically distinct from A. similis. Both Bayesian, maximum likelihood and parsimony analyses support these conclusions. Our study demonstrates a major divergence in the mitochondrial haplotypes of southern and eastern African populations of A. similis, consistent with the former representing a separate species and the latter being closely related to Palearctic birds. The data highlights the requirement for a comprehensive study to clarify the taxonomy of the A. similis complex in Africa.

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