Bird mitochondrial gene order: insight from 3 warbler mitochondrial genomes

Mol Biol Evol. 2008 Mar;25(3):475-7. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msn003. Epub 2008 Jan 4.


Two main gene orders exist in birds: the ancestral gene order and the remnant control region (CR) 2 gene order. These gene orders differ by the presence of 1 or 2 copies of the CR, respectively. Among songbirds, Oscines were thought to follow the ancestral gene order, with the exception of the lyrebird and Phylloscopus warblers. Here, we determined the complete mitochondrial genome sequence of 3 non-Phylloscopus warblers species and found that the blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and the reed warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) have 2 almost identical copies of the CR, whereas the eastern orphean warbler (Sylvia crassirostris) follows the remnant CR 2 gene order. Our results contradict previous studies suggesting that Acrocephalus and most sylvioid warblers exhibit the ancestral gene order. We were able to trace this contradiction to a misidentification of gene order from polymerase chain reaction length determination. We thus suggest that passerine gene order evolution needs to be revised.

Publication types

  • Letter
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Gene Order*
  • Genes, Mitochondrial*
  • Songbirds / genetics*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial