Get access

Global population structure and taxonomy of the wandering albatross species complex


T.M. Burg, Department of Biology, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada. Fax: 01 613 533 6617; E-mail:


A recent taxonomic revision of wandering albatross elevated each of the four subspecies to species. We used mitochondrial DNA and nine microsatellite markers to study the phylogenetic relationships of three species (Diomedea antipodensis, D. exulans and D. gibsoni) in the wandering albatross complex. A small number of samples from a fourth species, D. dabbenena, were analysed using mitochondrial DNA only. Mitochondrial DNA sequence analyses indicated the presence of three distinct groups within the wandering albatross complex: D. exulans, D. dabbenena and D. antipodensis/D. gibsoni. Although no fixed differences were found between D. antipodensis and D. gibsoni, a significant difference in the frequency of a single restriction site was detected using random fragment length polymorphism. Microsatellite analyses using nine variable loci, showed that D. exulans, D. antipodensis and D. gibsoni were genetically differentiated. Despite the widespread distribution of D. exulans, we did not detect any genetic differentiation among populations breeding on different island groups. The lower level of genetic differentiation between D. antipodensis and D. gibsoni should be reclassified as D. antipodensis. Within the context of the current taxonomy, these combined data support three species: D. dabbenena, D. exulans and D. antipodensis.