American, European plovers are separate species

This is a Kentish plover video from Denmark.

From ScienceDaily:

Are US And European Plovers Really Birds Of A Feather?

(Nov. 2, 2009) — The Kentish-Snowy Plover, a small shorebird found in the US and Europe, is suffering from an identity crisis after scientists at the Universities of Bath and Sheffield found genetic evidence that the populations are, in fact, separate species.

Historically, biologists have classified the Kentish Plover, found in Europe, and its look-a-like, the Snowy Plover, from the US, as being different varieties from the same species due to their similar looks.

Whilst their true identity has been long debated by biologists, this is the first time that scientists have found proof that the birds actually belong to different species.

These new findings could prove important in the conservation of the Snowy Plovers, which are listed as threatened.

The scientists from the Universities of Bath and Sheffield analysed the DNA of 166 birds from two different American populations of Snowy Plover, four Eurasian populations of Kentish Plover, and one African population of a closely related species, the White-fronted Plover.

They found that the European birds were more similar to their African cousins than to their relatives in America, indicating that the bird population split and colonised America, where they became Snowy Plovers, before splitting again to produce Kentish and White-fronted plovers.

Dr Clemens Küpper, from the University of Bath’s Department of Biology & Biochemistry, explained: “Scientists have suspected for some time that these birds are from different species.

“Although they look similar, for them to have stayed as a single species they would have had to be able to breed with each other, but this wasn’t possible because they were separated by thousands of miles of water!

“For the first time we’ve shown that these birds have been separated for a long time and evolved in different directions.”

This video from the USA is called A Snowy Plover at Oso Flaco in California.

This video is called African Black Oystercatcher with White-fronted Plover, Point Recife, South Africa.

1 thought on “American, European plovers are separate species

  1. Originally published Monday, March 21, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    Feds want to double nesting areas for shorebird

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to double the number of West Coast beaches protected for a threatened shorebird in anticipation that sea levels will be rising due to global warming.


    AP Environmental Writer

    GRANTS PASS, Ore. —

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to double the number of West Coast beaches protected for a threatened shorebird in anticipation that sea levels will be rising due to global warming.

    Prompted by a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, the proposal announced Monday would expand critical habitat designations for the western snowy plover in California, Oregon and Washington to a total of 68 areas covering about 28,000 acres.

    Based on U.S. Geological Survey studies, the service expects sea levels to rise about 3 feet over the next 100 years, which will completely flood some nesting areas and make others smaller as the ocean gets closer to roads, sea walls and other development, said Fish and Wildlife biologist Jim Watkins from Arcata, Calif.

    Biologists estimate the snowy plover numbers no more than 2,270 individuals. Its numbers have declined as the bare sandy dunes where it lays its eggs were developed and covered with European beach grass. The birds are about the size of a tennis ball and cannot see foxes and other predators approaching in the tall grass. They were first listed as threatened in 1993.

    Under the Bush administration, Fish and Wildlife had limited the size of critical habitat to occupied areas. The new proposal includes areas suitable for nesting that the birds can occupy as their numbers increase.

    “We certainly support the increase of designated critical habitat for the plover,” Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity said from Portland. “It absolutely needs this in order to be able to survive.”

    The proposal calls for 51 critical habitat areas in California, 13 in Oregon and four in Washington. Federal lands account for 9,040 acres, state lands 12,740 acres, and private lands 6,145 acres.

    Designation of critical habitat is required by the Endangered Species Act. Within its boundaries, the Fish and Wildlife Service has the power to review projects that are funded by the federal government, or require a federal permit, whether it is on federal, state or private land.

    The public can comment on the proposal until May 23. A final version, taking into account economic impacts, will be adopted later this year.


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