Microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA homogeneity among phenotypically diverse crossbill taxa in the UK

Stuart Brannon Piertney, R. Summers, M. Marquiss

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53 Citations (Scopus)


Genetic differentiation within and between the three morphologically divergent crossbill species extant in the UK was assessed by comparison of allele frequencies at five unlinked microsatellite loci and DNA sequence variation across the mitochondrial control region. No significant differences in microsatellite allele frequency were found either between different populations of the same species or between the crosshill species themselves. A similar lack of genetic divergence was apparent from the mitochondrial sequence data. We resolved 33 different haplotypes; separated by low levels of sequence divergence (0-0.15%). Levels of divergence within and between species were not significantly different. Haplotypes formed a polyphyletic phylogeny, indicating that the crossbill species do not form genetically separate clades. Discordance between neutral DNA polymorphisms and adaptive morphological variation is discussed in relation to defining the systematic relationship between crossbill forms. If adaptive differences have arisen without a concomitant divergence in neutral DNA then attempting to define crossbill types from microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA without recourse to ecology and behaviour may be misleading.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1511-1517
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1475
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2001


  • crossbill
  • DNA
  • hybridization
  • Loxia
  • speciation
  • AVES


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