Description of two new Cisticola species endemic to the marshes of the Kilombero floodplain of southwestern Tanzania

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The presence of two undescribed cisticola warblers in the marshes of the Kilombero floodplain in central Tanzania has been known since the 1980s and these putative new species have been illustrated in field guides on African birds, although with no formal name. Here we name both species, based on two museum specimens collected in 1961 and recently detected in a museum collection. We use these specimens to provide formal descriptions of each form and, using DNA sequence data extracted from these specimens, we place them in a broad phylogenetic framework for the genus Cisticola. The phylogenetic placement indicates that one of the new species is nested within a group of plain-backed duetting cisticolas and the other within the streak-backed marsh cisticolas. We use our own and public recordings to characterize the vocal repertoire of each of these new species and compare song characteristics with other members of their respective clades. Dating of nodes in the molecular phylogeny suggests that both cisticolas endemic to the Kilombero became isolated and diverged from their sister-species between 2.5 and 3.5 million years ago, long after the formation of the Eastern Arc Mountains and the Malawi Rift. We propose that both species should be classified as globally endangered, owing to immense anthropogenic pressures on the floodplain, as documented in several publications and by a recent Ramsar Advisory Mission.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1330-1354
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2021

    Research areas

  • Africa, Cisticolidae, conservation, habitat selection, new species, Ramsar, wetlands

ID: 272636812