Systematic revision of the ‘diminutive’ Kentish Plover (Charadriidae: Charadrius) with the resurrection of Charadrius seebohmi based on phenotypic and genetic analyses

Jude Janitha Niroshan, Yang Liu, Jonathan Martinez, Pinjia Que, Chentao Wei, Sanjaya Weerakkody, Gayomini Panagoda, Jagathpriya Weerasena, Thasun A.A. Amarasinghe, Tamás Székely, Alexander L. Bond, Sampath S. Seneviratne

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The Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus Linnaeus 1758 is a common shorebird in Eurasia and North Africa that breeds in a variety of habitats, exhibits different extents of migratory behaviour and is an emerging model species of breeding system evolution. Here we focus on the resident population found across the southern tip of India and Sri Lanka, and re-evaluate its systematic status based on phenotypic and genetic distinctiveness from a sympatric migrant, Charadrius alexandrinus sensu stricto, and the recently elevated closely related Charadrius dealbatus in East Asia. We show that the Sri Lankan and South Indian (South Asian) population differs in body size, moulting pattern and plumage coloration from C. alexandrinus and C. dealbatus. Furthermore, based on two mitochondrial, two sex-linked and 11 autosomal microsatellite markers from 378 individuals, we show that these three taxa have moderate genetic differentiation (Fst 0.078–0.096). The South Asian taxon is sister to the clade of C. alexandrinus sensu stricto and C. dealbatus with an estimated divergence time of 1.19 million years ago. We also examined ornithological records of major museum collections in Asia, Europe and North America for the south Asian taxon to evaluate its biogeographical and taxonomic status. Based on differences in genotype, phenotype, allochronic migratory pattern and breeding range, we resurrect the most suitable synonym, Charadrius alexandrinus seebohmi Hartert and Jackson, 1915, and elevate the nomen to the species level with the proposed English name ‘Hanuman Plover’.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date12 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge Rajaseelan Gnanam and Palmyrah House (Pvt) Limited for the assistance given in the field and financial support. We are also thankful for the staff of Vayu Resort for assistance in the field. Members of the Avian Sciences and Conservation (ASC) and Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) assisted in the fieldwork, laboratory work and analysis. Tharindu Kanchana and Vimukthi Gunasekara helped with the analysis. Lankani Somaratne (NMSL), Brett Benz (UMMZ), Peter Campianolo (AMNH), Santiago Claramunt (ROM), Chris Milensky (USNM), Paul Sweet (AMNH), Ben Winger (UMMZ) and Kristof Zyskowski (YPM) provided details from their respective collections. We appreciate the assistance of Sarath Kotagama, Rohan Pethiyagoda, Nilmini Jayasena, Udaya Karunaratne, and the field staff of the Sri Lanka Navy, Ministry of Defence, National Museum of Colombo and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC). We are grateful to the Editor, Rauri Bowie and Associate Editor, Sandi Willows‐Munro, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and feedback.

Funding Information:
Part of the financial support and logistics for this work was provided by the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences undergraduate research programme (to JJN), Collaborative Research Grant of the University of Colombo and Palmyrah House (Pvt) Limited (to SS). TS was funded by The Royal Society (Wolfson Merit Award WM170050, APEX APX\R1\191 045) and by the National Research, Development and Innovation Office of Hungary (ÉLVONAL KKP‐126949, K‐116310).

Funding Information:
University of Colombo (Grant/Award Number: Collaborative Research Grants, Undergraduate Research Funds). Palmyrah House (Pvt) Limited. National Research, Development and Innovation Office of Hungary (Grant/Award Number: ÉLVONAL KKP‐126949, K‐116310). Royal Society (Grant/Award Number: Wolfson Merit Award WM170050, APEX APX\R1\191045).


  • allopatric speciation
  • genetic divergence
  • isolation
  • Mannar
  • shorebirds
  • South Asia
  • Sri Lanka

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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