Next-generation sequencing reveals phylogeographic structure and a species tree for recent bird divergences

Next generation sequencing (NGS) technologies are revolutionizing many biological disciplines but have been slow to take root in phylogeography. This is partly due to the difficulty of using NGS to sequence orthologous DNA fragments for many individuals at low cost. We explore cases of recent divergence in four phylogenetically diverse avian systems using a method for quick and cost-effective generation of primary DNA sequence data using pyrosequencing. NGS data were processed using an analytical pipeline that reduces many reads into two called alleles per locus per individual. Using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) mined from the loci, we detected population differentiation in each of the four bird systems, including: a case of ecological speciation in rails (Rallus); a rapid postglacial radiation in the genus Junco; recent in situ speciation among hummingbirds (Trochilus) in Jamaica; and subspecies of white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) along the Pacific coast. The number of recovered loci aligning closely to chromosomal locations on the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) genome was highly correlated to the size of the chromosome, suggesting that loci are randomly distributed throughout the genome. Using eight loci found in Zonotrichia and Junco lineages, we were also able to generate a species tree of these sparrow sister genera, demonstrating the potential of this method for generating data amenable to coalescent-based analysis. We discuss improvements that should enhance the methodís utility for primary data generation.