Body size and genetic variation in the White-tipped Plantcutter (Phytotoma rutila: Cotingidae) suggest ecological divergence across the Chaco–Andes dry forest belt

  • María José Rodríguez-Cajarville
  • Luciano Calderón
  • Pablo Luis Tubaro
  • Gustavo Sebastián CabanneEmail author
Original Article


Dry forests characterize many of the biomes of southern South America and the Andes, such as the Chaco and the inter-Andean valley forests, which form a continuous belt (Chaco–Andes dry forest belt). Some of the taxa that inhabit this forest belt present genetic and phenotypic differentiation between edges of the region, which suggests the action of divergent evolutionary processes between forests (i.e., parapatric divergence). In order to test this hypothesis, we studied the morphological and phylogeographic variation of the White-tipped Plantcutter Phytotoma rutila (Cotingidae) and evaluated predictions of genetic and morphological evolutionary processes (e.g., local adaptation). The results supported that the environmental gradient along the Chaco–Andes dry forests might be promoting diversification because we found that body size of the White-tipped Plantcutter varied according to a step cline related to altitude, and thus parapatric processes might be responsible for this pattern. There are other taxa co-distributed across the study region presenting similar patterns of geographic variation, which suggests the action of concerted evolutionary phenomena in the Chaco–Andes dry forest.


Phenotypic divergence Natural selection Normal mixture models Divergent evolution Sibling lineages Geographic phenotypic variation 


Körpergröße und genetische Variation beim Zweibinden-Pflanzenmäher ( Phytotoma rutila : Cotingidae) deuten auf ökologische Divergenz entlang des Trockenwaldgürtels der Chaco-Anden.

Trockenwälder kennzeichnen einen Großteil der Biome des südlichen Südamerikas und der Anden. So bilden zum Beispiel die Wälder des Chaco und der Täler innerhalb der Anden-Ketten einen durchgängigen Gürtel (Trockenwaldgürtel der Chaco-Anden). Einige Taxa, die diesen Waldgürtel besiedeln, zeigen genetische und phänotypische Unterschiede zwischen den Rändern der Region, was auf den Einfluss von divergierenden evolutionären Prozessen zwischen den Waldbereichen hindeutet (d.h. parapatrische Divergenz). Um diese Hypothese zu prüfen, untersuchten wir die morphologische und phylogeographische Variation beim Zweibinden-Pflanzenmäher Phytotoma rutila (Cotingidae) und überprüften die Vorhersagen der genetischen und morphologischen Evolutionsprozesse (z.B. lokale Anpassung). Unsere Ergebnisse zeigten, dass sich möglicherweise aufgrund der parapatrischen Prozesse die Körpergröße der Zweibinden-Pflanzenmäher stufenweise entlang des Höhengradienten änderte. Dies unterstützt die Hypothese, dass der Umweltgradient entlang der Trockenwälder der Chaco-Anden die Diversifikation fördern könnte. Weitere Taxa, die über das Untersuchungsgebiet verbreitet sind, zeigten ein ähnliches geographisches Variationsmuster, was auf das Wirken konzentrierter evolutionärer Phänomene in den Trockenwäldern der Chaco-Anden hinweist.



We thank the following institutions for granting collection permits: Administración de Parques Nacionales (Argentina) and environmental authorities of Bolivia. Also, we would like to thank the curators of the following institutions and/or ornithological collections for granting access to their specimen collections: the Ornithology Collection of the American Museum of Natural History, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Ornithology Collection of the University of Washington Burke Museum, the Colección Boliviana de Fauna (Colección de Ornitología), the Colección de Ornitología del Instituto Argentino de Investigaciones de Zonas Áridas and the División de Ornitología del Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales. This study was funded by Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Tecnológicas (PIP 2011 276, PIP 2015 637, Coop. Int. CNPq-CONICET, as well as Fondo IBOL Argentina), and the Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica, Argentina (Coop. Int. CAPES-MINCyT, PICT 2012 1924 and PICT 2014 2154).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1008 kb)


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© Deutsche Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museo Argentino de Ciencias Naturales “Bernardino Rivadavia”-CONICETBuenos AiresArgentina
  2. 2.Instituto de Biología Agrícola de Mendoza-CONICET-UNCUYOLuján de CuyoArgentina

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