Continent-scale Genetic Structure in a Boreal Forest Migrant, the Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)

TitleContinent-scale Genetic Structure in a Boreal Forest Migrant, the Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga striata)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsRalston, J, Kirchman, JJ
JournalThe Auk
KeywordsBlackpoll Warbler, boreal forest, coalescent analysis, migratory birds, mitochondrial DNA, Pleistocene refugia, population genetics, Setophaga striata, statistical phylogeography
Abstract We describe the range-wide phylogeography of Blackpoll Warblers (Setophaga striata), a migratory passerine with a broad breeding range in North America's boreal forest that encompasses several possible biogeographic barriers but shows no phenotypic geographic variation. We used mitochondrial control-region sequences from 304 individuals in combination with ecological niche models and coalescent simulations to test alternative historical hypotheses about the number of Pleistocene refugial populations and divergences among modern populations. Population pairwise FST and spatial analyses of molecular variance suggested significant genetic structure among western, eastern, and Newfoundland populations, but no structure among sky-island populations at the southeastern periphery of the breeding range. Inferred gene flow fits a model of isolation-by-distance. Coalescent simulations rejected all multiple-refugia hypotheses in favor of a single refugium. Paleodistribution models and modern migratory pathways suggested that the refugium was located in southeastern North America. In contrast to previous studies that have invoked multiple Pleistocene refugia as the cause of genetic structure in North American bird species, our analyses suggest that geographic structure in Blackpoll Warblers results from isolation-by-distance rather than a history of sundered populations.