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
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
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:
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
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
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
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