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Central-West Siberian-breeding Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) segregate in two morphologically distinct flyway populations

October 16, 2021

Long-distance migratory species often include multiple breeding populations, with distinct migration routes, wintering areas and annual-cycle timing. Detailed knowledge on population structure and migratory connectivity provides the basis for studies on the evolution of migration strategies and for species conservation. Currently, five subspecies of Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica have been described. However, with two apparently separate breeding and wintering areas, the taxonomic status of the subspecies L. l. taymyrensis remains unclear. Here we compare taymyrensis Bar-tailed Godwits wintering in the Middle East and West Africa, respectively, with respect to migration behaviour, breeding area, morphology and population genetic differentation in mitochondrial DNA. By tracking 52 individuals from wintering and staging areas over multiple years, we show that Bar-tailed Godwits wintering in the Middle East bred on the northern West-Siberian Plain (n = 19), whilst birds from West Africa bred further east, mostly on the Taimyr Peninsula (n = 12). The two groups differed significantly in body size and shape, and also in the timing of both northward and southward migrations. However, they were not genetically differentiated, indicating that the phenotypic (i.e. geographic, morphological and phenological) differences arose either very recently or without current reproductive isolation. We conclude that the taymyrensis taxon consists of two distinct populations with mostly non-overlapping flyways, which warrant treatment as separate taxonomic units. We thus propose to distinguish a more narrowly defined taymyrensis subspecies (i.e. the Bar-tailed Godwits wintering in West Africa and breeding on Taimyr), from a new yamalensis subspecies (i.e. the birds wintering in the Middle East and breeding on the northern West-Siberian Plain).

Publication Year 2022
Title Central-West Siberian-breeding Bar-tailed Godwits (Limosa lapponica) segregate in two morphologically distinct flyway populations
DOI 10.1111/ibi.13024
Authors Roeland A. Bom, Jesse R. Conklin, Yvonne I. Verkuil, José A. Alves, Jimmy De Fouw, Anne Dekinga, Chris J. Hassell, Raymond H. G. Klaassen, Eldar Rakhimberdiev, Andy Y. Kwarteng, Afonso Rocha, Job ten Horn, T. Lee Tibbitts, Pavel S. Tomkovich, Reginald Victor, Theunis Piersma
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Ibis
Index ID 70225525
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Alaska Science Center Biology WTEB