Tests of multiple molecular markers for the identification of Great Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers and their hybrids

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Great Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major and D. syriacus) are known to hybridize in nature; however, the extent of this phenomenon is not known due to difficulties in hybrid detection based on plumage analyses. Here, we tested five markers (one mitochondrial and four nuclear) and a set of six microsatellite loci for the identification of these two Woodpeckers and their hybrids. Sequencing of DNA from 26 individuals of both Woodpeckers from different parts of their ranges: one allopatric (D. major; Norway) and two sympatric (Poland and Bulgaria) showed that both species can be clearly separated based on all sequence markers. The highest number of fixed nucleotide sites were found in the mtDNA control region and intron 5 of the transforming growth factor. Analyses of microsatellite data distinguished the two species, but all loci showed a large number of common alleles and their utility in identifying hybrids is therefore doubtful. According to the DNA sequence analyses, 2 out of 18 specimens within the sympatric range in Poland were identified as possible hybrids, most probably paternal backcrosses. Moreover, both hybrids are from synantropic populations (settled in cities), whereas none of the D. major sampled in forests and in its allopatric range (Norway) showed signs of an intermixed genotype. Further research on hybridization and introgression in woodpeckers is undoubtedly needed and could be useful for understanding ecological and ethological interactions among these species, particularly for D. syriacus, which is relatively rare in Europe.


  • Jerzy Michalczuk
  • Allan D. McDevitt
  • Tomasz D. Mazgajski
  • Tomasz Figarski
  • Mihaela Ilieva
  • Malgorzata Bujoczek
  • Pawel Malczyk
  • Lukasz Kajtoch
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Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Biologiska vetenskaper


Sidor (från-till)591-600
TidskriftJournal für Ornithologie
Utgåva nummer3
StatusPublished - 2014
Peer review utfördJa