Darwin's finches comprise a group of passerine birds first collected by Charles Darwin during his visit to the Galapagos Archipelago. The group, a textbook example of adaptive radiation (the diversification of a founding population into an array of species differentially adapted to diverse environmental niches), encompasses 14 currently recognized species, of which 13 live on the Galapagos Islands and one on the Cocos Island in the Pacific Ocean. Although Darwin's finches have been studied extensively by morphologists, ecologists, and ethologists, their phylogenetic relationships remain uncertain. Here, sequences of two mtDNA segments, the cytochrome b and the control region, have been used to infer the evolutionary history of the group. The data reveal the Darwin's finches to be a monophyletic group with the warbler finch being the species closest to the founding stock, followed by the vegetarian finch, and then by two sister groups, the ground and the tree finches. The Cocos finch is related to the tree finches of the Galapagos Islands. The traditional classification of ground finches into six species and tree finches into five species is not reflected in the molecular data. In these two groups, ancestral polymorphisms have not, as yet, been sorted out among the cross-hybridizing species.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Apr 27 1999|
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