Heather R.L. Lerner, M.S., Ph.D. candidate
University of Michigan Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Lab Phone: 734-763-0310
Systematics of Accipitridae
My research began with the reconstruction of a phylogenetic hypothesis for raptor relationships among the ~230 species of birds in family Accipitridae using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Historically, phylogeny for Accipitridae was based on morphological traits and was difficult to resolve, due at least in part to extensive convergence in traits related to shared predatory lifestyles and high morphological plasticity in this group. I assessed phylogenetic relationships for the Accipitridae using Bayesian inference, likelihood and parsimony methods based on molecular sequence from two mitochondrial genes (1047 bases ND2 and 1041 bases cyt-b) and one nuclear intron (1074 bases Beta-fibrinogen intron 7). I sampled representatives of all 14 Accipitridae subfamilies, all but two genera and nearly all known species represented (>85%).
Multiple well-supported relationships among
accipitrids identified with this dataset differ from those traditionally
recognized based on morphology or life history traits. For example,
harpy eagles (Harpiinae), snake eagles (Circaetinae), kites, accipiters
Harpy Eagle Phylogeography
The harpy eagle is a large predatory bird of
lowland forests historically ranging from southern
(1) Is there phylogeographic structure between harpy eagle populations and, if so, does the pattern and estimated date of population divergence correspond to known barriers such as the Andean cordillera and its orogeny or the Panamanian land bridge?
(2) Do mitochondrial (control region sequence) and nuclear (microsatellite frequencies) data show corresponding levels and patterns of genetic differentiation?
Is gene flow between
South America and
(4) Is there evidence of recent or historic population bottleneck or expansion in harpy eagle populations and, if so, does the evidence correspond to known climate or habitat history (e.g. population bottleneck corresponding to tropical forest contraction during glacial maxima or recent habitat fragmentation)?