Rapid evolution in lekking grouse: Implications for taxonomic definitions

Ornithological Monographs
By: , and 



Species and subspecies delineations were traditionally defined by morphological and behavioral traits, as well as by plumage characteristics. Molecular genetic data have more recently been used to assess these classifications and, in many cases, to redefine them. The recent practice of utilizing molecular genetic data to examine taxonomic questions has led some to suggest that molecular genetic methods are more appropriate than traditional methods for addressing taxonomic uncertainty and management units. We compared the North American Tetraoninae—which have been defined using plumage, morphology, and behavior—and considered the effects of redefinition using only neutral molecular genetic data (mitochondrial control region and cytochrome oxidase subunit 1). Using the criterion of reciprocal monophyly, we failed to recognize the five species whose mating system is highly polygynous, with males displaying on leks. In lek-breeding species, sexual selection can act to influence morphological and behavioral traits at a rate much faster than can be tracked genetically. Thus, we suggest that at least for lek-breeding species, it is important to recognize the possibility that morphological and behavioral changes may occur at an accelerated rate compared with the processes that led to reciprocal monophyly of putatively neutral genetic markers. Therefore, it is particularly important to consider the possible disconnect between such lines of evidence when making taxonomic revisions and definitions of management units.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Rapid evolution in lekking grouse: Implications for taxonomic definitions
Series title Ornithological Monographs
DOI 10.1525/om.2010.67.1.114
Volume 67
Year Published 2010
Language English
Publisher The American Ornithologists' Union
Contributing office(s) Fort Collins Science Center
Description 9 p.
First page 114
Last page 122
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