Phylogeny of the Tachycineta genus of New World swallows: Insights from complete mitochondrial genomes

David J. Cerasale, Roi Dor, David W. Winkler, Irby J. Lovette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Tachycineta genus of swallows is comprised of nine species that range from Alaska to southern Chile. We sequenced the entire mitochondrial genome of each member of Tachycineta and generated a completely resolved phylogenetic hypothesis for the corresponding mitochondrial gene tree. Our analyses confirm the presence of two sub-clades within Tachycineta that are associated with geography: a North American/Caribbean clade and a South/Central American clade. We found considerable variation among regions of the mitochondrial genome in both substitution rates and the level of information that each region supplied for phylogenetic reconstruction. We found no evidence of positive directional selection within mitochondrial coding regions, but we identified numerous sites under purifying selection. This finding suggests that, despite differences in life history traits and distributions, mitochondrial genes in Tachycineta are predominantly under purifying selection for conserved function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-71
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Genetic samples were kindly provided by the Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates, Louisiana State University Museum of Natural Science, and by A.K. Townsend (Cornell University, USA), V. Ferretti (Cornell University, USA) and M. Liljestrom (CADIC, Argentina). We thank Amanda Talaba, Laura Stenzler and Brynn McCleery for laboratory assistance and two anonymous reviewers for their comments. Funding was provided by Cornell University and a Tachycineta Student Research Grant from the NSF-PIRE Golondrinas project (OISE-0730180).


  • Evolution rates
  • Mitochondrial genome
  • Purifying selection
  • Tachycineta
  • Tree swallow


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