Molecular Phylogeny and Evolution of Amazon Parrots in the Greater Antilles

Amazon parrots (Amazona spp.) colonized the islands of the Greater Antilles from the Central American mainland, but there has not been a consensus as to how and when this happened. Today, most of the five remaining island species are listed as endangered, threatened, or vulnerable as a consequence of human activity. We sequenced and annotated full mitochondrial genomes of all the extant Amazon parrot species from the Greater Antillean (A. leucocephala (Cuba), A. agilis, A. collaria (both from Jamaica), A. ventralis (Hispaniola), and A. vittata (Puerto Rico)), A. albifrons from mainland Central America, and A. rhodocorytha from the Atlantic Forest in Brazil. The assembled and annotated mitogenome maps provide information on sequence organization, variation, population diversity, and evolutionary history for the Caribbean species including the critically endangered A. vittata. Despite the larger number of available samples from the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Program, the sequence diversity of the A. vittata population in Puerto Rico was the lowest among all parrot species analyzed. Our data support the stepping-stone dispersal and speciation hypothesis that has started approximately 3.47 MYA when the ancestral population arrived from mainland Central America and led to diversification across the Greater Antilles, ultimately reaching the island of Puerto Rico 0.67 MYA. The results are presented and discussed in light of the geological history of the Caribbean and in the context of recent parrot evolution, island biogeography, and conservation. This analysis contributes to understating evolutionary history and empowers subsequent assessments of sequence variation and helps design future conservation efforts in the Caribbean.

Genes (Basel). 2021 Apr 20;12(4):608. doi: 10.3390/genes12040608.