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27 January 2023 Ultraconserved elements resolve the phylogeny and corroborate patterns of molecular rate variation in herons (Aves: Ardeidae)
Jack P. Hruska, Jesse Holmes, Carl Oliveros, Subir Shakya, Philip Lavretsky, Kevin G. McCracken, Frederick H. Sheldon, Robert G. Moyle
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Abstract

Thoroughly sampled and well-supported phylogenetic trees are essential to taxonomy and to guide studies of evolution and ecology. Despite extensive prior inquiry, a comprehensive tree of heron relationships (Aves: Ardeidae) has not yet been published. As a result, the classification of this family remains unstable, and their evolutionary history remains poorly studied. Here, we sample genome-wide ultraconserved elements (UCEs) and mitochondrial DNA sequences (mtDNA) of >90% of extant species to estimate heron phylogeny using a combination of maximum likelihood, coalescent, and Bayesian inference methods. The UCE and mtDNA trees are mostly concordant with one another, providing a topology that resolves relationships among the 5 heron subfamilies and indicates that the genera Gorsachius, Botaurus, Ardea, and Ixobrychus are not monophyletic. We also present the first genetic data from the Forest Bittern Zonerodius heliosylus, an enigmatic species of New Guinea; our results suggest that it is a member of the genus Ardeola and not the Tigrisomatinae (tiger herons), as previously thought. Finally, we compare molecular rates between heron clades in the UCE tree with those in previously constructed mtDNA and DNA–DNA hybridization trees. We show that rate variation in the UCE tree corroborates rate patterns in the previously constructed trees—that bitterns (Ixobrychus and Botaurus) evolved comparatively faster, and some tiger herons (Tigrisoma) and the Boat-billed Heron (Cochlearius) more slowly, than other heron taxa.

LAY SUMMARY

  • We use genetic data from across the genome and produce a robust family tree for herons, which clarifies the relationships among subfamilies and genera.

  • A comprehensive phylogeny of herons is lacking. As a result, their taxonomy is unstable and their evolutionary history is poorly known.

  • Several species were found to be incorrectly classified, and we recommend appropriate taxonomic revisions.

  • Comparisons of molecular evolution support previous studies. Bitterns have evolved comparatively faster, with some tiger herons and the Boat-billed Heron having evolved comparatively slower.

Los árboles filogenéticos cuidadosamente muestreados y bien respaldados son esenciales para la taxonomía y para guiar los estudios de evolución y ecología. A pesar de una extensa investigación previa, aún no se ha publicado un árbol completo de las relaciones de las garzas (Aves: Ardeidae). Como resultado, la clasificación de esta familia sigue siendo inestable y su historia evolutiva sigue siendo poco estudiada. Aquí, tomamos muestras de elementos ultraconservados (EUCs) de todo el genoma y secuencias de ADN mitocondrial (ADNmt) de >90% de las especies existentes para estimar la filogenia de las garzas usando una combinación de métodos de máxima verosimilitud, coalescencia e inferencia bayesiana. Los árboles de EUC y ADNmt son en su mayoría concordantes entre sí, lo que proporciona una topología que resuelve las relaciones entre las cinco subfamilias de garzas e indica que los géneros Gorsachius, Botaurus, Ardea e Ixobrychus no son monofiléticos. También presentamos los primeros datos genéticos de Zonerodius heliosylus, una enigmática especie de Nueva Guinea; nuestros resultados sugieren que es un miembro del género Ardeola y no de Tigrisomatinae (garzas tigre), como se pensaba anteriormente. Por último, comparamos las tasas moleculares entre los clados de garzas en el árbol de EUC con aquellas de los árboles de ADNmt y de hibridación ADN–ADN construidos previamente. Mostramos que la variación de las tasas en el árbol de EUC corrobora los patrones de las tasas en los árboles construidos previamente—que Ixobrychus y Botaurus evolucionaron comparativamente más rápido y algunas garzas tigre (Tigrisoma) y Cochlearius más lento que otros taxones de garzas.

Jack P. Hruska, Jesse Holmes, Carl Oliveros, Subir Shakya, Philip Lavretsky, Kevin G. McCracken, Frederick H. Sheldon, and Robert G. Moyle "Ultraconserved elements resolve the phylogeny and corroborate patterns of molecular rate variation in herons (Aves: Ardeidae)," Ornithology 140(2), 1-21, (27 January 2023). https://doi.org/10.1093/ornithology/ukad005
Received: 22 August 2022; Accepted: 23 December 2022; Published: 27 January 2023
KEYWORDS
ADNmt
EUCs
filogenómica
garzas
herons
molecular rates
mtDNA
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