Currently, the genus Thraupis Boie, 1826 contains seven species in the monophylectic group, all of which have high molecular and morphological support. Nevertheless, the phylogenetic relationship of only three of the species is known: T. abbas as the sister specie of T. ornata and T. palmarum clade. Moreover, in the remaining species group, one of the species, T. glaucocolpa, has not been included in any of the previous molecular studies, and another, T. cyanoptera, has an uncertain position in the genus phylogenetic tree. Therefore, the only recovered group is the T. episcopus - T. sayaca clade. This clade includes 17 subspecies (previous molecular studies had only used samples from three different birds), but a high morphological variation and a wide distribution which includes overlapping zones of T. episcopus and T. sayaca, makes taxa identification almost impossible. Furthermore, the group does not have taxonomic stability, as shown by the multiple changes which occur at different levels: moving from one genus to another or from specie to subspecie level etc. To check the genus I will make a phylogenetic analysis based on two mitochondrial genes (Cyt-b and ND2), in addition to three nuclear introns (intron 3 of MUSK gen, intron 5 of TGFB2 gen and a piece of the intron 5 of the BF5 gen). The extractions will be from tissues collected at different localities around the natural distribution of the species T. episcopus - T. sayaca¸ and from tissues deposited in different scientific collections. After obtaining phylogenetic trees, the evolutionary lineages will be compared morphologically. Measurements recorded will be total culmen, culmen from nares, tarsus, wing chord, tail length and weight. In addition, color patterns will be compared with the help of color guides. Expected results should clarify the phylogenetic and taxonomic relationships of the genus and propose a classification that agrees with the evolutionary history of these common, but curiously little-studied birds of South America.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: