Loyola University Chicago

Department of Biology

Lynika Strozier Project Description

Title: Cryptic Diversification on Two Widespread Species in Madagascar


Madagascar is known for its rich biodiversity and high level of endemic species that are found nowhere else. Despite the overall species diversity, there are fewer bird species than one would predict on Madagascar given the size of the island. Cryptic diversification, when genetically distinct species are hard to detect because they are morphologically undifferentiated, has been hypothesized to occur in some groups on Madagascar. Currently it is unclear to what extent this occurs in birds because only a few studies have been conducted. This study aims to understand the phylogenetic and phylogeographic patterns within members of a Madagascar endemic songbird genus, Newtonia. I conducted a phylogenetic analysis using multiple molecular markers in order to examine the evolutionary relationships and diversification patterns among these species. I further examined phylogeographic structure within two widespread species to assess the potential for cryptic species. I found that there were cryptic species present within N.amphichroa, however not within N.brunneicauda. My study found that N. amphichroa is divided into two deeply divergent clades associated with distinct regions in the eastern humid forest. The two major clades of N. amphichroa split 1.25 MYA, indicating a deep split within this population showing that they have been separated for quite some time and on the order of other sister species pairs. N. brunneicauda did not show any geographic structure and no genetically distinct lineages to indicate segregation within distinct areas. My study is an important step in better understanding the phylogenetic relationships and the phylogeographic patterns of endemic birds of Madagascar in order to uncover hidden diversity.




I would like to thank all those who made this thesis possible. First I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my advisor Dr.Reddy for her continued support throughout my studies. Without her support throughout this process I do not believe I would have made it this far and this defense would not have been possible. A very special thanks to Sarah Kurtis who assisted with the laboratory experiments and thesis edits she was very supportive and encouraging throughout my studies. I would also like to thank Dr. Jane Younger for her support throughout my thesis; Chris Kyriazis who helped with the thesis edits; my collaborator Steve M. Goodman whom helped throughout my thesis studies and who gave great feedback and suggestions; Dr. Matthew Von Konrat who was very encouraging and supportive. I would also like to thank my thesis committee Dr. Reddy, Dr. Grande, Dr. Moreau and Dr. Laten. I appreciate their advice, feedback they have provided me. I would also like to thank Virginia Lorenzo and Frank Inglima for their support and being able to answer any of my questions and concerns. I would also like to give a special thank you to Audrey Berry for being so helpful and supportive throughout my studies at Loyola. I would also like to thank my family who has been there for me. They were able to give love, support and encouragement. I am especially grateful to have Mario Trujillo by my side, encouraging me to never give up and to keep striving for success. I realize that my thesis work would not be completed if it had not been for the assistance from Loyola University Chicago. Finally, I would like to thank my grandmother Sharon Wright for keeping me on track. I could not have made it this far without my grandmother’s encouragement, constant support and her always pushing me to never give up no matter how hard it gets.



Lynika Strozier was born in Birmingham Alabama and was raised in Chicago Illinois. Before attending Loyola University Chicago, she attended Dominican University in River Forest, IL where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology. For almost 9 years Lynika has worked as a research assistant at the Field Museum of Natural History for Dr. Matt Von Konrat, performing molecular techniques on early land plants. She also worked for Dr. Corrie Moreau databasing ants and performing molecular techniques on Florida Keys ants. She also worked with Dr. Thorsten Lumbsch performing molecular techniques on lichens at the Field Museum.

Lynika began her masters of science in Biology at Loyola University Chicago in the fall of 2013, focusing on the phylogenetics and biogeography of the bird genus Newtonia. This thesis was presented at the American Ornithologists Union Conference in Estes Park, Colorado in 2014. In the spring of 2015, she was a part of a panel discussion called “This Is How We Science” at the Field Museum of Natural History where she discussed the highlights and challenges in being in science to a group of high school students. During her summers she mentored and trained students in the Pritzker Laboratory at the Field Museum. Currently, Lynika is attending University of Illinois at Chicago where she is enrolled in a second masters program in Secondary Education where she will become a high school biology teacher with an endorsement in special education.


Committee Members

Dr. Sushma Reddy

Dr. Terry Grande

Dr. Howard Laten

Dr. Corrie Moreau