In support of previous research, the Cape Parrot should be elevated to the species level, according to a new genetic analysis study publish August 12, 2015 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Willem Coetzer from University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa and colleagues.
The Cape Parrot is currently considered a Poicephalus robustus sub-species, along with P. r. fuscicollis and P. r. suahelicus, but based on morphological, ecological, and behavioral assessments, some scientists believe the Cape Parrot should be a distinct species. In this study, researchers investigated these recommendations using DNA analyses. They genotyped over 130 specimens from five Poicephalus species and sequenced two mitochondrial and one nuclear intron marker.
The author's data analysis identified the Cape Parrot as genetically distinct from the other P. robustus subspecies. Their analysis places the most recent common ancestor between the Cape Parrot and P. r. fuscicollis and P. r. suahelicus at about 2 million years ago. The authors suggest their results support previous recommendations to elevate the Cape Parrot to species level, which may facilitate better planning and implementation of international and local conservation management strategies for the Cape Parrot.
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Citation: Coetzer WG, Downs CT, Perrin MR, Willows-Munro S (2015) Molecular Systematics of the Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus): Implications for Taxonomy and Conservation. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0133376. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0133376
Funding: South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) provided funding for the running expenses of the project (SWM and MRP). A National Research Foundation Scarce Skills grant, as well as a College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science, University of KwaZulu-Natal Doctoral research grant, was awarded to WGC.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.