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Circumpolar variation in morphological characteristics of Greater White-fronted Geese Anser albifrons.

  • Academic Journal
  • Bird Study; Jul2005, Vol. 52 Issue 2, p104-119, 16p
  • Capsule Greater White-fronted Geese show significant variation in body size from sampling locations throughout their circumpolar breeding range. Aims To determine the degree of geographical variation in body size of Greater White-fronted Geese and identify factors contributing to any apparent patterns in variation. Methods Structural measures of >3000 geese from 16 breeding areas throughout the Ho!arctic breeding range of the species were compared statistically. Results Palearctic forms varied clinally, and increased in size from the smallest forms on the Kanin and Taimyr peninsulas in western Eurasia to the largest forms breeding in the Anadyr Lowlands of eastern Chukotka. Clinal variation was less apparent in the Nearctic, as both the smallest form in the Nearctic and the largest form overall (the Tule Goose) were from different breeding areas in Alaska. The Tule Goose was 25% larger than the smallest form. Birds from Greenland (A. a. flavirostris) were the second largest, although only slightly larger than geese from several North American populations. Body size was not correlated with breeding latitude but was positively correlated with temperature on the breeding grounds, breeding habitat, and migration distance. Body mass of Greater White-fronted Geese from all populations remained relatively constant during the period of wing moult. Morphological distinctness of eastern and western Palearctic forms concurs with earlier findings of complete range disjunction. Conclusions Patterns of morphological variations in Greater White-fronted Geese across the Holarctic can be generally attributed to adaptation to variable breeding environments, migration requirements, and phylo-geographic histories. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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