Evolution

Californians Are Different

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Science  12 Jan 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5502, pp. 211
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5502.211b

Many species of organisms have wide distributions, yet exhibit little obvious phenotypic variation across their range. A case in point is the common raven, which occurs across most of the Northern Hemisphere. Can such taxonomic simplicity conceal hidden genetic complexity to the point where a single species might need to be reclassified into several.

Omland et al. used mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences to assess patterns of genetic variation in ravens sampled from most of their geographic range. They find that there is a deep genetic split between the ravens of California and those of the rest of the world (including North America), possibly sufficient for the two to be classified as separate species. The present-day ranges of the two groups come into extensive contact, and there is evidence of genetic mixing in these zones, suggesting that they may be remerging after an extensive period of isolation and differentiation. — AMS

Proc. R. Soc. London Ser. B267, 2475 (2000).

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