Phylogenetic affinities of the Fregetta storm-petrels are not black and white.

Research paper by Bruce C BC Robertson, Brent M BM Stephenson, Robert A RA Ronconi, Sharyn J SJ Goldstien, Lara L Shepherd, Alan A Tennyson, Nicholas N Carlile, Peter G PG Ryan

Indexed on: 26 Jan '16Published on: 26 Jan '16Published in: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution


The Fregetta storm-petrels generally are regarded to comprise two species: black-bellied storm-petrels F. tropica (monotypic) breed at Antarctic and sub-Antarctic islands (46-63°S), and white-bellied storm-petrels F. grallaria breed at south temperate islands (28-37°S), with four recognized subspecies. Confusion surrounds the status of birds at Gough Island (40°S), central South Atlantic, which have been attributed usually to a white-bellied form of black-bellied storm-petrel F. t. melanoleuca. We use cytochrome b and nuclear β-fibrinogen gene sequences to show that F. t. melanoleuca are present during the breeding season at Gough and islands in the nearby Tristan da Cunha archipelago (37°S), exhibiting limited divergence from F. t. tropica. We also show that there is greater diversity among F. grallaria populations, with eastern South Pacific F. g. segethi and F. g. titan differing by c. 0.011, and both differing from western South Pacific nominate F. g. grallaria by c. 0.059. The Tristan archipelago supports a population of F. grallaria closely allied to the nominate form, as well as a distinct form identified as F. g. leucogaster. Further research is needed to assess how F. grallaria and F. tropica segregate in sympatry at Tristan and Gough, and why this is the only location where both species have white-bellies.