Research Summary: Phylogenetic Relationships in Pterodroma Petrels Are Obscured by Recent Secondary Contact and Hybridization


The classification of petrels (Pterodroma spp.) from Round
Island, near Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, has confounded researchers since
their discovery in 1948. In this study we investigate the relationships between
Round Island petrels and their closest relatives using evidence from
mitochondrial DNA sequence data and ectoparasites. Far from providing clear
delimitation of species boundaries, our results reveal that hybridization among
species on Round Island has led to genetic leakage between populations from
different ocean basins. The most common species on the island,
Pterodroma arminjoniana, appears to be hybridizing with two
rarer species (P. heraldica and P. neglecta),
subverting the reproductive isolation of all three and allowing gene flow.
P. heraldica and P. neglecta breed
sympatrically in the Pacific Ocean, where P. arminjoniana is
absent, but no record of hybridization between these two exists and they remain
phenotypically distinct. The breakdown of species boundaries in Round Island
petrels followed environmental change (deforestation and changes in species
composition due to hunting) within their overlapping ranges. Such multi-species
interactions have implications not only for conservation, but also for our
understanding of the processes of evolutionary diversification and


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 31-May-2011

Author(s): Brown R., Jordan W., Faulkes C., Jones C., Bugoni L., Tatayah V., Palma R., Nichols R.


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