Molecular systematics and historical biogeography of the Black-browed Barbet species complex (Megalaima oorti)

Julie Feinstein, Xiaojun Yang, Shou Hsien Li*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Although Southeast Asia is a global biodiversity hotspot, the tempo and mode of avian diversification there has not been well studied. We investigated the history of the diversification of an endemic Asian tropical bird, the Black-browed Barbet Megalaima oorti, by reconstructing its intraspecific molecular phylogeny with mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene sequences. Our molecular phylogeny suggests that the five subspecies of this montane barbet comprise four deeply divergent clades with strong geographical associations: M. o. oorti in the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra, M. o. annamensis in Vietnam, M. o. nuchalis in Taiwan and M. o. faber/M. o. sini in Hainan and the southeastern Chinese mainland, respectively. Climate changes from the mid-Pliocene to the Pleistocene may have influenced their diversification through repeated contraction and expansion of Asian tropical forest. Moreover, our data indicate that the Black-browed Barbet complex is not monophyletic: M. asiatica is embedded in our phylogeny as the sister taxon to M. o. annamensis. The present taxonomic treatment has combined evolutionarily distinct taxa into a single paraphyletic species. Based on our molecular data and previously published plumage characters, we suggest a revision of traditional M. oorti into four monophyletic species: M. oorti, M. nuchalis, M. annamensis and M. faber.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)40-49
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2008 Jan


  • Megalaima annamensis
  • Megalaima asiatica
  • Megalaima faber
  • Megalaima nuchalis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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