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The biogeography of Gentoo Penguins (Pygoscelis papua)

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Gentoo Penguins (Pygoscelis papua (J.R. Forster 1781)) are defined morphologically as a single species with a northern and southern subspecies. Differences in nuptial displays and particularly mating calls, however, suggest isolation among island archipelagos of different ocean basins. We thus asked whether genetic divergence of populations could be confirmed using molecular markers. A phylogenetic tree was constructed from a sample of 110 Gentoo Penguins and 58 haplotypes from the control region of the mitochondrial DNA. Reanalyses of historical data on morphology were conducted to construct additional phylogenetic trees for comparison. In agreement with differences in mating calls, the phylogenetic tree that was based on mitochondrial DNA showed a deep division between populations in the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The current systematic division into two subspecies based on morphology was not supported. The division between populations in the Indian and Atlantic oceans was great enough to justify taxonomic revision, with at least three distinct clades: two in the respective sub-Antarctic and Antarctic zones of the Atlantic Ocean, and a deeply divergent and unnamed third clade in the sub-Antarctic Indian Ocean. In contrast to more pelagic species like Rockhopper Penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome (J.R. Forster, 1781)), the restricted coastal foraging ranges of Gentoo Penguins and the distances among isolated oceanic archipelagos could explain the distribution of genetically differentiated populations.

Keywords: ADNmt; Polar Front; Pygoscelis papua; aire d’alimentation; ecozones; foraging range; front polaire; manchots; mtDNA; oceans; océans; oiseaux marins; penguins; phylogeography; phylogéographie; seabirds; speciation; spéciation; écozones

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive – Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique UMR 5175, 1919 Route de Mende, 34293 Montpellier CEDEX 5, France. 2: Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, 2 Gagarin Street, 1113 Sofia, Bulgaria. 3: Vogelwarte Radolfzell am Max-Planck-Institut für Ornithologie, Schlossallee 2, D-78315 Radolfzell, Germany.

Publication date: March 1, 2012

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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