Evolution and systematics albatrosses - animals.worldmy.info

Go to content

Main menu

Evolution and systematics albatrosses

Birds > Group of birds > Albatrosses

A range of fossil albatrosses are evidence of a wider and more cosmopolitan distribution than those extant today. The earliest identified are from the Oligocene in Germany and South Carolina. Species approaching the characteristics of modern albatrosses are from the Northern Hemisphere (Europe and both coasts of North America) in the Miocene and Pliocene, but deposits are known from Australia, South Africa and Argentina in the predominantly marine Southern Hemisphere. Albatrosses were probably widespread in the north Atlantic until the late Tertiary.

The taxonomic status of albatrosses was fragmented and confusing until long-term field studies started during the 1930s. The collation of morphological, biological, and distribution data from breeding locations, with various genetic analyses from the 1990s, suggests a division into 4 genera and 24 taxa, a term that applies to both the species and subspecies of this order (Phoebastria with three taxa; Diomedea, 7 taxa; Thalassarche, 12 taxa; and Phoebetria, two taxa). Most of the 24 recognizable taxa (by combined morphology and genetics) may warrant species status and can be considered as distinct conservation units. In this treatment, however, the more traditional count of two genera will be applied: Diomedidae, which encompasses the proposed genera Phoebastria and Thalassarche; and Phoebetria, the two species of sooty albatross. A more positive resolution of the species question awaits data from poorly studied species in remote locations.

Back to content | Back to main menu