Morphometric and genetic evidence for four species of gentoo penguin

Joshua Tyler, Matthew T. Bonfitto, Gemma V. Clucas, Sushma Reddy, Jane L. Younger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (SciVal)


Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) are found across the Southern Ocean with a circumpolar distribution and notable genetic and morphological variation across their geographic range. Whether this geographic variation represents species‐level diversity has yet to be investigated in an integrative taxonomic framework. Here, we show that four distinct populations of gentoo penguins (Iles Kerguelen, Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and South Shetlands/Western Antarctic Peninsula) are genetically and morphologically distinct from one another. We present here a revised taxonomic treatment including formal nomenclatural changes. We suggest the designation of four species of gentoo penguin: P. papua in the Falkland Islands, P. ellsworthi in the South Shetland Islands/Western Antarctic Peninsula, P. taeniata in Iles Kerguelen, and a new gentoo species P. poncetii, described herein, in South Georgia. These findings of cryptic diversity add to many other such findings across the avian tree of life in recent years. Our results further highlight the importance of reassessing species boundaries as methodological advances are made, particularly for taxa of conservation concern. We recommend reassessment by the IUCN of each species, particularly P. taeniata and P. poncetii, which both show evidence of decline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13836-13846
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number24
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2020


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