Evolutionary Significance of Hybrid Zones on Avian Biodiversity from the Neotropics
Tropical forests house an exceptionally high biological diversity and despite great interest in factors that might drive the formation of high species richness, little is understood about how this diversity arose. In the Neotropics, rivers appear to delimit the geographic ranges of closely related avian species, and are generally believed to have been important in in promoting species formation by acting as dispersal barriers to populations on either side. A key question is whether or not reproductive isolation is accumulating between taxa that are separated by rivers over most of their geographic range, but have narrow contact zones in headwater regions. These zones are defined as regions in which members of genetically distinct populations mix and produce offspring of mixed ancestry. Thus, in my project I will explore the genetic architecture of two avian contact zones from the Brazilian Amazon using cutting-edge genetic methods to provide a detailed analysis of the evolutionary process in one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth.