Phylogenetic placement of Mimizuku gurneyi (Aves: Strigidae) inferred from mitochondrial DNA

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The nucleotide sequences of mitochondrial 12S rRNA (12S) and protein-coding cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) spanning 1,010 and 1,130 base pairs, respectively, are reported for seven owl species representing six genera: Otus megalotis (Philippine Scops-Owl), O. longicornis (Luzon Scops-Owl), Bubo virginianus (Great Horned Owl), Asio flammeus (Short-cared Owl), Ninox philippensis (Philippine Hawk-Owl),0 Tyto alba (Barn Owl; used as an outgroup), and the little known Mimizuku gurneyi (Giant Scops-Owl). Separate phylogenetic analyses of 12S, COI, and the combined 12S and COI data yielded congruent phylogenies, strongly supporting the phylogenetic affinity of Mimizuku with Otus, as opposed to Bubo. The conservative nature of mitochondrial DNA evolution in Mimizuku, in sharp contrast to its unique derived morphological attributes, suggests that Mimizuku is a recently evolved insular form of Otus that has undergone rapid morphological evolution towards gigantism, rather than being a small derivative of the much larger eagle-owls (Bubo) as has been suggested previously.

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