11/10/2012
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Mealy Amazon split into at least two species

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Caption: The Panama form of Mealy Amazon is apparently a cryptic new species, separate to the nominate South American form. Photo: HarmonyonPlanetEarth (commons.wikimedia.org).
Caption: The Panama form of Mealy Amazon is apparently a cryptic new species, separate to the nominate South American form. Photo: HarmonyonPlanetEarth (commons.wikimedia.org).

Mealy Amazon has five subspecies in South and Central America, but the two Central American forms of the parrot are genetically different to the other three.


The species is distributed from Guatemala through to the Brazilian coast. Using  four mitochondrial and two nuclear genes, a multinational team sampled all five subspecies of Amazona farinosa, using related Amazon species as outgroups, from museum specimens.


The analyses showed genetic distances of 3.5 to 5.4 per cent between the two Central American and the three South American forms, a distance strongly indicative of specific status. The paper does not go so far as to name the new species, but also highlights the fact that one of the South American suibspeceis, A f inornata from northern Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela could also be separate enough for splitting, showing morphological and genetic differences.

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Reference
Wenner, T J, Russello, MA and Wright, T F. 2012. Cryptic species in a Neotropical parrot: genetic variation within the Amazona farinosa species complex and its conservation implications. Conservation Genetics DOI: 10.1007/s10592-012-0364-8.