Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Mande Holford

Committee Members

S. Elizabeth Alter

George Amato

George Barrowclough

Mark E. Hauber

Subject Categories

Biodiversity | Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology | Evolution | Molecular Genetics | Population Biology


Introduced Species, Ornithology, Brood Parasites, Phylogenetics, Phylogeography, Molecular Evolution


Using molecular markers to test phylogenetic and phylogeographic hypotheses is critical for tracking the population origin of invasive, introduced species (Chapter 2, Chapter 4) and to identify the systematic relationships of disparate lineages at both shallow and deep evolutionary time scales (Chapters 3, Chapter 4). In this thesis, Sanger Sequencing was used to generate datasets based on fresh and preserved tissue from specimens collected in the field, as well as museum tissue vouchers granted from various institutions in the US and Europe. In combining these source materials, data were generated for three focal studies: 1) In the first research section (Chapter 2), the recent evolutionary history of a single species of butterfly, the Dryas iulia, was analyzed regarding phylogeographic and population-level molecular data to test hypotheses about the appearance of this New World butterfly on the Thai-Malay Peninsula. The data confirm that this butterfly was introduced from a Central American population and did not disperse naturally over the Pacific. 2) In the second research section (Chapter 3) the deeper evolutionary history of an avian order, the Cuckoos, was investigated to test competing theories regarding the monophyly of the tribe Cuculini, comprised of the majority of Old World obligate brood parasitic cuckoo species. The most recent comprehensive phylogeny of this group was based on data from two mitochondrial markers only and so this analysis expanded upon those, using additional tissue material to generate a multi-locus (mitochondrial and nuclear), genus-level phylogeny of the basal members of tribe Cuculini. Regarding the existing hypotheses surrounding the number of independent evolutionary origins of obligate brood parasitism within the Cuculidae, these new data confirm 3 independent such origins. The data also suggest novel placement of unresolved basal genera within Cuculini, suggesting rearrangements amongst these taxa. 3) The third research section (Chapter 4), tracks the population origin of an introduced obligate brood parasite: the Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura), as it looks at phylogeographic and population-level molecular analyses to test hypotheses about the introduction of this species to North America and the Caribbean. V. macroura is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa and has been successfully introduced by humans to at least two locations in the New World. Cryptic population diversity is confirmed across this species’ range in sub-Saharan Africa, which was then used to confirm a likely western African origin as the source for all individuals sampled in the Caribbean and North America, as well as captive stocks sold in the pet-trade. Overall, these three studies demonstrate that employing a molecular sequencing-based approach to the study of the population history of volant organisms at differing time scales has important utility – especially in the tracing of introduced invasive species.