Albatross Taxonomy

Subject: Albatross Taxonomy
From: John Penhallurick <>
Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 13:55:11 +1000
The key thing which I have tried to obtain from Nunn without success is the
percentage distance matrix.  Only by knowing the absolute values in this
can we tell whether the classifications should be reflected at generic,
subgeneric, species or subspecies level.  In addition, such a judgement
cannot be made in absolute terms.  Because of the long generational
turnover of Albatrosses, I would expect the distances between acknowledged
species to be low in comparison with, say, Owls.  If the distance between,
say, Grey-headed and Bullers is 3%, then if the distance between
melanophris and impavida is close to 3% they should also be considered

It doesn't surprise me that related taxa breeding on widely separated
islands should diverge genetically.  The fact that they might pass each
other when gliding across the ocean means nothing for interbreeding.  Also
relevant to the splits among Wandering Albatross is the different plumage
sequences of the different taxa.  The plumage sequences in field guides
like Harrison's Seabirds is a conflation of different sequences and
worthless for recognising the new taxa. I am happy to split the forms of
Wandering on the basis of these different plumage sequences, as well as the
consistent size differences.

If anyone has a copy of the distance matrix behind the Robertson and Nunn
paper, I would greatly appreciate a copy. Robertson does not have it, by
the way.

John Penhallurick
John Penhallurick
Associate Professor John M. Penhallurick<>
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