Genetic differentiation between Príncipe Island and mainland populations of the grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), and implications for conservation.
Mol Ecol. 2007 Apr;16(8):1673-85.
The range of the grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus), one of the most heavily harvested bird species for the international pet trade, spans the forest belt of Central and West Africa and includes the oceanic island of Príncipe (Gulf of Guinea). Morphological variation led to the recognition of two mainland subspecies (P. e. erithacus and P. e. timneh). The population from Príncipe was originally described as a separate species (P. princeps) but is currently included in the nominate race. We used 1932 bp of the mitochondrial genome to clarify the genealogical affinities between the two currently-recognized mainland subspecies and the Príncipe population. Sampling included 20 individuals from Príncipe, 17 from P. e. erithacus, and 13 from P. e. timneh. We found that the two mainland subspecies form two independent lineages, having diverged up to 2.4 million years ago (Ma), and that the Príncipe population is composed of two lineages that diverged in allopatry. The most common lineage is descended from the first colonizers and evolved in isolation for up to 1.4 Ma. Contrary to current understanding, this 'Príncipe lineage' is more closely related to the timneh than to the erithacus subspecies. The second lineage consists of P. e. erithacus birds from the nearby mainland that colonized the island in recent times. The evolutionary dynamics of the grey parrot population of Príncipe are primarily characterized by isolation, with new genetic variation being added through rare immigration events. The heavily harvested Príncipe grey parrot population should therefore be treated as an independent conservation unit.