Biology ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-15-2017


Elevational generalism is relatively rare in the tropical Andes Mountains, likely owing to the inherent requirements of enduring a high degree of climatic zonation and coping with hypoxic stress. The Cinereous Conebill (Conirostrum cinereum) appears to be an exception, and inhabits a continuous elevational distribution that spans over 4,500 m. Two subspecies, cinereum and fraseri, are restricted to high elevations and may be isolated, whereas the third and most widespread, littorale, occurs continuously along the western slope of the Andes from 0 to over 4,500 m. First, we aim to characterize the morphology, genetics, and climatic niche of the three subspecies using a comparative biogeographic approach to explore patterns and timing of differentiation and to consider possible mechanisms of diversification. Second, we study whether hemoglobin adaptation plays a role in this elevational generalist’s ability to thrive in high-elevation environments, and whether localized adaptation is possible despite altitudinal migration and gene flow. We used a comparative phylogeographic framework to examine whether lineage divergence within C. cinereum is associated with climatic, geographic, and/or physiological barriers leading to incipient speciation.




speciation, adaptation, hemoglobin, elevation, bird, Andes Mountains

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Biology Department

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Christopher C. Witt

Second Committee Member

Dr. Joseph Cook

Third Committee Member

Dr. Michael J. Andersen

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Biology Commons