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Keywords:

  • Arctic;
  • Atlantic;
  • DNA barcodes;
  • MC1R ;
  • Pacific;
  • polymorphism

Abstract

The Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) is a common tube-nosed seabird with a disjunct Holarctic range. Taxonomic divisions within the Northern Fulmar have historically been muddled by geographical variation notably including highly polymorphic plumage. Recent molecular analyses (i.e., DNA barcoding) have suggested that genetic divergence between Atlantic and Pacific populations could be on par with those typically observed between species. We employ a multigene phylogenetic analysis to better explore the level of genetic divergence between these populations and to test an old hypothesis on the origin of the modern distribution of color morphs across their range. Additionally, we test whether mutations in the melanocortin-1 receptor gene (MC1R) are associated with dark plumage in the Northern Fulmar. We confirmed that mitochondrial lineages in the Atlantic and Pacific populations are highly divergent, but nuclear markers revealed incomplete lineage sorting. Genetic divergence between these populations is consistent with that observed between many species of Procellariiformes and we recommend elevating these two forms to separate species. We also find that MC1R variation is not associated with color morph but rather is better explained by geographical divergence.