The first analysis combining the genetic and physical differences of Gentoo penguin populations suggests that they should be considered as four separate species.
Gentoo penguins need to be reclassified as four separate species, say scientists at the Milner Center for Evolution at Bath University, analyzing the genetic and physical differences between populations around the southern hemisphere.
Researchers say that counting four of these species will help maintain them, as it will make it easier to control any decline in numbers.
Gentoo penguins, Latin name Pygoscelis papua:, live in a number of latitudes in the southern hemisphere և are currently divided into two subspecies, P. p. Elsworth և: P. p. Papua,
Researchers believe that these two subspecies should be raised to the level of a species և two new species have been created, which they named P. poncetii: After Australian seabird conservation specialist Sally Ponset և P. taeniata: as a sign of recognition of the previous proposal for this name dating back to the 1920s.
Their study, published in the journal Ecology և evolution, looked at the genomes of populations in the South Atlantic Falkland Islands, the South Georgia orthopedic population, the South Shetland Islands in Antarctica, the Cargelene Islands in the Indian Ocean.
They used genome data to create an evolutionary tree to understand the relationships between different populations. When they combined these data with the measurements of museum specimens from each population, they found clear geological (physical) genetic differences between the four populations.
The study was led by Dr. Jane Eyn Younger of the Millennium Center for Evolution Award at Bath University. He said. “For the first time we have shown that these penguins are not only genetically different, but also physically different.
“Gentoos tend to stay close to their home colonies,” hundreds of thousands of years geographically isolated from each other to the point where they do not intersect with each other, although they could easily swim the distance separating them.
“The four species we offer live in quite different latitudes, for example P. ellsworthi: lives on the continent of Antarctica, meanwhile P. poncetii:, P. taeniata: և: Papua P: To live further north, where conditions are milder, it is not surprising that they have developed to adapt to their different habitats. ”
Postgraduate student Josh Tyler says: “They look a lot like the inexperienced eye, but when we measured their skeletons, we found statistical differences in the length of their bones, the size of their beaks, the size of a horse.
“It’s a giraffe-like story that was discovered in 2016 as four genetically distinct species.”
Scientists say that considering the four populations as separate species gives environmentalists a better chance of protecting their diversity, because if one of them falls, it will change the threat status of the IUCN Red List.
Dr. Junger said: “Currently, the number of gentian penguins is quite stable in number, but there is some evidence that the northern population moves further south as the climate warms, so we need to watch them closely.”
The proposed changes to the Genton classification will be reviewed by the International Committee of Scientists, which will evaluate all evidence in the scientific literature prior to the adoption of the new taxonomy.
The study was funded by the American Ornithological Society, the Linn Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Accreditation of Evolution Education. The research team collaborated with scientists from Bath University (UK) with researchers at Loyola University in Chicago, Cornell University and the University of Minnesota (USA).
Reference. Gent Oshua Tyler, Matthew T. Bonfito, emma V. Klukas, Sushma Reddy և L. and L. Junger’s “Geological վկայ Genetic Evidence for Four Species of the Gentoo Penguin”, November 5, 2020 Ecology և evolution,
DOI: 10.1002 / ece3.6973: