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, 88, 28-37

A New Classification of the Pied Woodpeckers Assemblage (Dendropicini, Picidae) Based on a Comprehensive Multi-Locus Phylogeny


A New Classification of the Pied Woodpeckers Assemblage (Dendropicini, Picidae) Based on a Comprehensive Multi-Locus Phylogeny

Jérôme Fuchs et al. Mol Phylogenet Evol.


The pied woodpecker assemblage historically included the widespread genera Picoides and Dendrocopos. The assignment of species to either of these two genera has for long puzzled systematists due to their overall plumage similarity. Recent molecular studies not only suggested that both of these genera are not monophyletic, but also that four other genera, the African Dendropicos the South American Veniliornis and two Asian monospecific genera (Hypopicus and Sapheopipo) are nested within the Dendrocopos-Picoides clade. Yet, our current understanding of the phylogeny and taxonomy of this group is still very partial because several distinctive Old World species that have been assigned to different genera throughout their taxonomic history have not been sampled yet. Here, using DNA sequence data gathered from four loci, we reconstructed a species level phylogeny of the Indo-Malayan and Palearctic Pied Woodpeckers to understand the phylogenetic relationships and biogeographic history of the Eurasian species with respect to African and New World lineages. Our phylogenetic analyses revealed nine strongly supported clades within the Dendropicini. Noticeably, two species that had disputed affinities at the genus level clustered in clades with species from the same biogeographical region: the Brown-backed Woodpecker (D. obsoletus) is nested in Dendropicos and the Arabian Woodpecker (D. dorae) is related to two Eurasian species, the Brown-fronted (D. auriceps) and Middle-spotted woodpeckers (D. medius). The nine clades have a strong biogeographic component and very few dispersal event among bioregions occurred. For example, the African species formed a clade, suggesting that only one dispersal event is needed to explain the presence of Dendropicini in Africa. Based on our phylogenetic results, we propose a new classification of the Dendropicini that recognizes nine genera.

Keywords: Dendrocopos; Dendropicos; Phylogeny; Picoides; Taxonomy; Woodpeckers.

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