Genomics of Recent Speciation in Lampornis Hummingbirds

Variable Mountain-gems

The Variable Mountain-gems of Costa Rica and Panama have long presented a taxonomic enigma to systematists. Typically, two species are recognized in the complex, based on male throat color: purple or white. However, our group has recently described a new member of the complex from the Azuero Peninsua in southern Panama (Miller, Buitrago et al. in prep.), which challenges the primacy of throat color as the sine qua non character for delimiting species.

During this work, we have also uncovered an enigma. In the Talamanca mountains of Panama and Costa Rica, white-throated and purple-throated birds share both mitochondrial and nuclear haplotypes, suggesting that speciation is recent. However, evidence from museum study skins suggests that hybridization is uncommon, despite ample opportunity for hybridization.

In late 2016 and early 2017, our group will be sequencing the whole genome of Variable Mountain-gems in order to develop a reference genome to understand the barriers to introgression and the drivers of speciation in these hummingbirds. We are hoping to recruit a graduate student to do resequencing of purple- and white-throated hummingbirds to unlock the mystery of speciation in this group!