Effective conservation relies on accurate taxonomy, because we cannot protect what we do not know. Species limits among phenotypically differentiated and allopatrically distributed populations on Southwest Pacific islands are poorly understood. This likely has led to an underestimate of species richness in the Southwest Pacific, and, consequently, a biased application of conservation effort. The silktail Lamprolia victoriae is a bird species endemic to Fiji. Two subspecies are known from Vanua Levu and Taveuni Islands, but uncertainty remains whether they should be considered one or two species. If the latter, increased conservation effort is warranted to protect forest habitat where isolated populations occur only on the Natewa Peninsula. Here, we address this question by examining 8859 single nucleotide polymorphisms produced by restriction-site associated DNA sequencing. We find that the silktail is best considered two species, due to high genetic differentiation and low gene flow between the two subspecies. These differences match known phenotypic differences (size and plumage), as well as allopatric island distributions. We suggest that the silktail be used as an icon for conservation efforts of the heavily degraded forest habitats on the Natewa Peninsula. Finally, we reassess the divergence age estimates of Lamprolia and its relatives, Chaetorhynchus and Rhipidura, in light of new phylogenomic evidence from oscine passerines.
- Natewa-Tunuloa Peninsula
- Species limits