The Hainan peacock pheasant is an endangered taxon found only on Hainan Island of China. Due to lack of detailed taxonomic studies, whether it is a subspecies of the grey peacock pheasant (Polyplectron bicalcaratum katsumatae) or a full species (Polyplectron katsumatae) remained unclear. We used molecular markers, including the complete mitochondrial cytochrome b gene and intron G of the nuclear ovomucoid gene, to reevaluate the taxonomy of the Hainan peacock pheasant. The results showed phylogeographic monophyly and large genetic distance between the Hainan peacock pheasant and the grey peacock pheasant. Sequence differences corroborated the species-level distinction between these two peacock pheasants, which were inferred to have diverged about 1.4±0.3 million years ago, near the time Hainan Island became separated from mainland China. Because the population density of the Hainan peacock pheasant is very low in its tropical forest on the island and the wild population is declining, it is now becoming severely endangered and should be ranked as the rarest species in the Order Galliformes in China. Our results increase the urgency of getting more morphological data to support the classification of the Hainan peacock pheasant as a distinct species and taking more conservation action immediately to protect this endangered island species.
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