Origins and radiation of true rosefinches (Carpodacus)

José Luis Copete
A paper recently published investigated the potential splits and the possible cryptic diversity hidden in a group with striking plumage similarities: The Carpodacus rosefinches.
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus, Ladakh India © Carlos Naza Bocos

Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus, Ladakh India © Carlos Naza Bocos

The genus Carpodacus, or rosefinches, comprise about 25 species, 19 of which are living in the Sino-Himalayan region, where they most probably originated.

Roborovski's Rosefinch Kozlowia roborovski Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Roborovski’s Rosefinch Kozlowia roborovski Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

A paper recently published (Tietze et al 2013 Complete phylogeny and historical biogeography of true rosefinches (Aves: Carpodacus). Zool J Linn Soc 169: 215–234) investigated the potential splits and the possible cryptic diversity hidden in a group with striking plumage similarities, especially in females and juveniles. According to their results, that genus originated in SW China and the Himalayas about 14 millions years ago, giving rise to a small clade consisting of Common Rosefinch (C. erythrinus), Scarlet Finch (Haematospiza sipahi) and the nowadays extinct Bonin Islands Grosbeak (Chaunoproctus ferreorostris) on one side, and on other side a larger clade comprising 22 species. The latter split into four major lineages when the uplift of the Himalayas. In that group, they found support for four splits already advanced by some works:

dubius from White-browed Rosefinch (Carpodacus thura), present in WC China (NE & E Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia S to E Xizang)

formosanus from Vinaceous Rosefinch (Carpodacus vinaceus), present isolated in Taiwan

grandis from Red-mantled Rosefinch (Carpodacus rhodochlamys), present in NW & NE Afghanistan, W & NC Pakistan and W Himalayas E to N India (E to N Himachal Pradesh)

verreauxii from Spot-winged Rosefinch (Carpodacus rodopeplus), present in  S China (NE Yunnan and SW Sichuan) and NE Myanmar.

However, one of the already proposed splits, severtzovi from Great Rosefinch (Carpodacus rubicilla) was not supported and then they consider it should be still considered intraspecific.

Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla severtzovi Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla severtzovi Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Of great interest, too, is they suggest the central Asian lineage of Sinai Rosefinch (Carpodacus synoicus) deserves species rank, Carpodacus stolickae. This is indeed not only evident looking at the phylogeny, but also to the morphology. During my last visit to Tring museum last November, for the job of checking skins (ageing/sexing and subspecies differences) for the forthcoming Handbook of Western Palearctic Birds, a quick examination of the skins from the range of stolickae compared with the birds present in Jordan/Israel and other spots in Near East,  was showing how different they are in colouration and size.

Beautiful Rosefinch Carpodacus pulcherrimus davidianus Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Beautiful Rosefinch Carpodacus pulcherrimus davidianus Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Finally, the Pink-rumped Rosefinch (Carpodacus eos) and Beautiful Rosefinch (C. pulcherrimus) complex consists of four lineages, pulcherrimus/argyrophrys, davidianus, eos and waltoni. They propose to consider C. pulcherrimus waltoni with C. eos as C. waltoni.

Red-fronted Rosefinch Carpodacus_puniceus Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Red-fronted Rosefinch Carpodacus puniceus Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos

Given that many rosefinches occur in remote/isolated mountains, the authors didn’t obtain material from the field for logistical reasons, and had to rely on old skins which were providing only four markers for 13 out of 28 terminal taxa, so a few older nodes remain unresolved. It’s therefore of high interest to try to examine these cases with material taken in the field nowadays, since there is still the potential to find hidden diversity.

They also suggest to include Chaunoproctus, Haematospiza, Kozlowia, Pinicola subhimalacha and Uragus inside the genus Carpodacus.

Streaked Rosefinch Carpodacus_rubicilloides Ladakh India © Carlos Naza Bocos

Streaked Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilloides Ladakh India © Carlos Naza Bocos

6 thoughts on “Origins and radiation of true rosefinches (Carpodacus)

  1. Mike Pennington

    Interesting, as BOURC TSC, have just moved Common Rosefinch into a monotypic genus Erythrina, something that would be supported by the small class of three species distinct from the other Carpodacus.

    Reply
  2. Hannu Jännes

    I believe that the following image is misidentified/mislabelled: Great Rosefinch Carpodacus rubicilla severtzovi Qinghai China © Carlos Naza Bocos.

    Reply
    1. Martin Garner Post author

      Hi Hannu. Thanks very much for commenting. I don’t know the eastern carpodacus at all. What do you think it is?

      Reply
  3. Hannu Jännes

    Pink-rumped or Beautiful if photographed in Qinghai as the caption suggests. Note that the Qinghai population of Beautiful Rfinch (argyrophrys) is, according to the cited study, within Himalayan Beautiful Rfinch rather than Chinese Beautiful Rosefinch (C. davidianus) which occurs further east in China. If this treatment is followed, then the (sub)specific identification of the Beautiful Rosefinch image from Qinghai is also incorrect.

    Reply
  4. carlos naza bocos

    I agree with Hannu in the second case, it is a Pink-rumped Rosefinch. Sorry, a labeling mistake. But the bird in the first photo is a Carpodacus rubicilla severtzovi, near Yushu. The backlight gives you an odd look. Sorry for the photo …

    Reply

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