RFI: Albatross taxonomy

To: <>
Subject: RFI: Albatross taxonomy
From: "Robert Berry" <>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 12:41:18 +1000
Dear Martin,

The new taxonomy was proposed by

Robertson, C.J.R. & Nunn, G.B.(1998). Towards a new taxonomy for
albatrosses. Pp.13 - 19 in Albatross biology and conservation. Surrey Beatty
& Sons, Sydney.

The only justification for it is those authors' preference for the
phylogenetic species concept. Their interim classification was adopted in
the listings of the endangered and vulnerable species subject to the
Australian Federal Government's Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 when
updated in January 2000 (Environment Australia 2000). The merit of this
change is doubtful. Robertson and Nunn themselves state that

"the level of mitochondrial DNA sequence divergence between albatross taxa
is relatively small compared to their diagnosable . character differences.
Reassuringly, traditional taxonomic and novel molecular phylogenetic methods
are largely supportive of each other."

Nonetheless they propose changing from 14 to 24 species in four genera
rather than two. They anticipate that molecular systematic analyses will
confirm the wisdom of this. Since the result is concordant with the terminal
taxa of the traditional biological species concept based classification and
the Act operates at the subspecies level the effect of this change is
negligible. It represents nothing but a preference for an alternative
species concept.


Bob Berry.

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