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Background: Geographical and temporal patterns of diversification in bee hummingbirds (Mellisugini) were assessed with respect to the evolution of migration, critical for colonization of North America. We generated a dated multilocus phylogeny of the Mellisugini based on a dense sampling using Bayesian inference, maximum-likelihood and maximum parsimony methods, and reconstructed the ancestral states of distributional areas in a Bayesian framework and migratory behavior using maximum parsimony, maximum-likelihood and re-rooting methods. Results: All phylogenetic analyses confirmed monophyly of the Mellisugini and the inclusion of Atthis, Calothorax, Doricha, Eulidia, Mellisuga, Microstilbon, Myrmia, Tilmatura, and Thaumastura. Mellisugini consists of two clades: (1) South American species (including Tilmatura dupontii), and (2) species distributed in North and Central America and the Caribbean islands. The second clade consists of four subclades: Mexican (Calothorax, Doricha) and Caribbean (Archilochus, Calliphlox, Mellisuga) sheartails, Calypte, and Selasphorus (incl. Atthis). Coalescent-based dating places the origin of the Mellisugini in the mid-to-late Miocene, with crown ages of most subclades in the early Pliocene, and subsequent species splits in the Pleistocene. Bee hummingbirds reached western North America by the end of the Miocene and the ancestral mellisuginid (bee hummingbirds) was reconstructed as sedentary, with four independent gains of migratory behavior during the evolution of the Mellisugini. Conclusions: Early colonization of North America and subsequent evolution of migration best explained biogeographic and diversification patterns within the Mellisugini. The repeated evolution of long-distance migration by different lineages was critical for the colonization of North America, contributing to the radiation of bee hummingbirds. Comparative phylogeography is needed to test whether the repeated evolution of migration resulted from northward expansion of southern sedentary populations.
Licona-Vera, Y., & Ornelas, J. F. (2017). The conquering of North America: dated phylogenetic and biogeographic inference of migratory behavior in bee hummingbirds. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-017-0980-5