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Background: According to current taxonomy only three out of 27 Sinohimalayan leaf warbler species (Phylloscopidae) are considered genetically uniform across their entire breeding range along the Southeastern margin of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the Buff-barred Warbler (Phylloscopus pulcher) being one of them. Because marked differentiation among Himalayan and Chinese populations has been recently demonstrated for a number of Phylloscopus species (or sister species) we investigated the intraspecific variation of a mitochondrial gene, songs and morphology of P. pulcher in a phylogeographic approach. Methods: We sequenced a fragment of the mitochondrial cytochrome b, reconstructed haplotype networks and analyzed DNA polymorphism among Himalayan and Chinese populations. We measured time and frequency parameters of two distinct song types and analyzed among population-differentiation in a principal component analysis and a discriminant analysis. We also compared measurements of body size dimensions taken from museum specimens. Results: The mitochondrial haplotype network (cytb) was divided into two distinct clusters corresponding to geographic origin of samples. Pairwise genetic distances among Himalayan and Chinese mtDNA lineages account for 1.3% which coincides with Pleistocene lineage separation at roughly 650,000 years ago. Genetic diversity is slightly higher in the Chinese part of the species' range with respect to haplotype and nucleotide diversity while the less diversified Himalayan population lineage shows signs of recent range expansion. The vocal repertoire of P. pulcher comprises two distinct verse types that are combined with short interspersed click notes to long continuous song displays. Trill verse types showed significant differences among regions in almost all measured frequency and time parameters: Chinese males displayed more rapid and more broad-banded trills at a lower pitch. In contrast, warbling verse types showed a distinctively different structure among regions: Himalayan songs consisted of repeated syllables while Chinese songs comprised repetitions of single, long and strongly modulated elements. Subtle morphological differences among specimens from the two study regions could only be confirmed for plumage coloration but not for metric characters. Conclusions: Based on the genetic and bioacoustic distinctiveness of Chinese Buff-barred Warbler populations, we recommend that the name Phylloscopus pulcher vegetus Bangs, 1913 should be re-validated for this taxon.
Päckert, M., Sun, Y. H., Fischer, B. S., Tietze, D. T., & Martens, J. (2014). A phylogeographic break and bioacoustic intraspecific differentiation in the Buff-barred Warbler (Phylloscopus pulcher) (Aves: Passeriformes, Phylloscopidae). Avian Research, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40657-014-0002-x