Molecular systematics of the Amazonian endemic genus Hylexetastes (Aves: Dendrocolaptidae): taxonomic and conservation implications

Roxiris A. Azuaje‐Rodríguez , Jason Weckstein , Janice H. Dispoto , Swati Patel, Joseph A. Cacioppo, John M. Bates, Sofia Marques Silva, Alexandre Luis Padovan Aleixo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Hylexetastes woodcreepers are endemic to the terra firme forests of the Amazon basin. Currently, most taxonomic sources recognize two species of Hylexetastes (H. perrotii and H. stresemanni), each divided into three subspecies. Some authors maintain that the H. perrotii subspecies should be elevated to full species status. In particular, Hylexetastes perrotii brigidai is endemic to the eastern Amazon, the second Amazonian area of endemism (Xingu) most affected by deforestation and habitat degradation. Consequently, the taxonomic status of H. p. brigidai is of particular concern for conservation. Thus far, only morphological characters have been evaluated for the taxonomic delimitation of species and subspecies of Hylexetastes. We present a molecular phylogenetic analysis of all subspecies to help delimit Hylexetastes interspecific limits. Fragments of two mitochondrial (Cytb and ND2) and three nuclear genes (FGB5, G3PDH and MUSK) from 57 Hylexetastes specimens were sequenced. An ecological niche model was estimated to describe more accurately the potential distributions of taxa and to evaluate their vulnerability to ongoing deforestation. Phylogenetic analyses support the paraphyly of the polytypic H. perrotii as currently delimited and the elevation of Hylexetastes perrotii uniformis to full species rank, as well as the presence of three evolutionary significant units (ESUs) within this newly delimited species, including one grouping all H. p. brigidai specimens. Alternatively, under lineage‐based species concepts, our results support at least five evolutionary species in Hylexetastes: H. stresemanni, H. undulatus, H. perrotii, H. uniformis and H. brigidai. Each of these taxa and ESUs are distributed in different interfluvial areas of the Amazon basin, which have different degrees of disturbance. Because they occupy the most heavily impacted region among all Hylexetastes ESUs, regular assessments of the conservation statuses of H. p. brigidai and both H. uniformis ESUs are paramount.
Original languageEnglish
Volume 162
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)119-136
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
  • ecological niche models
  • evolutionary significant units
  • phylogeography
  • species delimitation
  • taxonomy

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