Phylogeography, Genotypic and Phenotypic Diversity of the Species Myadestes coloratus in the Darien Region

17 Aug 2023 Chucantí Private Nature Reserve, Panama, Central and Latin America Biodiversity | Birds | Habitats

Jorge Garzon

The Darien highland region is known for its high diversity and endemism. Despite its importance as a biodiversity hotspot, the region is severely threatened by factors such as habitat loss and forest fragmentation, primarily due to agricultural and livestock activities. Loss of habitat is one of the greatest challenges facing the conservation of global and local diversity. As such, it’s of critical importance to stablish rigorous estimates of population structure, particularly for endemic species.

Preliminary phylogeographic studies in the montane bird species varied solitaire Myadestes coloratus reveal modest genetic divergence among isolated populations in the Darien highland system. Moreover, these studies are based on genetic analyses of two mountain populations with a limited sample size. Therefore, the degree of population structure, genetic, and morphological diversity for this species in the region is unknown.

Taking morphological measurements of the species Myadestes coloratus in a remote area of the Tacarcuna Mountain. © Marciano Quintero.

Taking morphological measurements of the species Myadestes coloratus in a remote area of the Tacarcuna Mountain. © Marciano Quintero.

In this project I plan to do a dense sampling at both local and regional levels using mist nets to catch individual of the species Myadestes coloratus, to take morphological measurements and blood samples, and combining morphometric and phylogenetic analysis, to 1) examine the geographic distribution of genetic and phenotypic variation, 2) determine the phylogeographic history and time of divergence between populations, and 3) assess the influence of the lowland geographic barriers on gene flow and population structure for species in the Darien region.

The results of this study will provide accurate data for the evaluation of the threat categories of the species Myadestes coloratus at local level in Panama by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry Agricultural Development, and broad level by the IUCN. Also, this study will help implement a comprehensive study system in other species whose populations are isolated in the highlands of Panama and for which the species limits are not clear, and habitats are threatened. Throughout education program with the local communities, giving illustration and talks about the importance of protect the highland forest and giving them the opportunity to guide tourists to the areas where the varied solitaire is present, we hope to take the message of conservation and at the same time reward the community.

Project Updates