| || || Honeyeaters -- Fiji|
| || || The phylogeny of Fijian honeyeaters|
Author: Yabaki-Goundar, Mere
Institution: University of the South Pacific.
Award: M.Sc. Biology
Subject: Honeyeaters -- Fiji, Birds -- Fiji -- Phylogeny
Call No.: Pac QL 696 .P249 Y33 2014
Copyright:Under 10% of this thesis may be copied without the authors written permission
Abstract: This thesis investigated the origins, biogeographical history and taxonomy of Fijian Honeyeaters using molecular systematics. Recent DNA studies have suggested conflicting evolutionary histories for the Meliphagidae. For this reason a focus of the present study involved analyses to investigate the potential and limitations of molecular markers currently being used to reconstruct honeyeater phylogeny. In the final stages of writing this thesis, two important publications appeared on the molecular systematics of Pacific Meliphagidae (Andersen et al., 2014; Joseph et al. 2014). The taxonomic sampling of Polynesian honeyeaters in Andersen et al., (2014) in particularwas more extensive than that undertaken in the present study. Nevertheless, my findings provide novel insight helpful for interpreting the findings of this study, as well as the findings of others considered by these authors. While my DNA sequencing results lend support to Andersen et al.’s findings of a close phylogenetic relationship between Fijian Xanthotis and Foulehaio with species from the Western Pacific and Pacific Rim (termed clade H by Andersen et al., (2014). My analyses also provide explanation for the discordance between the phylogenetic inferences of Andersen et al., (2014) and earlier researchers (Driskell & Christidis, 2004; Gardner et al., 2010). Specifically, there is discrepancy concerning the relationship of honeyeaters from Andersen’s clade H with respect to their clades D and G. These clades comprise radiations of Australian, West Papua, Papua New Guinea and Indonesian species. I show that concatenated analyses of Fib5 and 12S rRNA genes can be unreliable for inferring the deeper phylogenetic relationships of honeyeaters, and that concatenation of ND2 and Fib5 genes by Andersen et al.,(2014) most likely misled reconstruction of their published species tree. In my thesis, using all available data (Andersen's data, Gardner's data and my own), a molecular clock reconstruction has been made based on ND2 genes only. This analysis provides the first temporal hypothesis based on sequence data to indicate times of arrival of Honeyeater lineages in Fiji. It suggests that dense forest species occupied the Fijian Islands prior to the evolution of a secondary forest species, which has more recently dispersed between Polynesian Islands. These conclusions and the divergence times estimates made for honeyeater species should be further tested by analyses of independent nuclear gene loci and whole mitochondrial genomes. Doing this will be important as my findings have relevance for conservation management of Fijian Honeyeaters.