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Geographic variation in gygis alba

Geographic variation in gygis alba

Alauda 44(4): 457-474

Geographical variation in the white tern G. alba is reviewed. Only 4 sspp. are recognized: G. a. alba in the Atlantic, G. a. candida in the Indian Ocean and most of the Pacific, G. a. microrhyncha at the larger islands of the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia) and G. a. leucopes at some islands of the Pitcairn Group. The adaptive significance of some morphological characters separating these 4 main groups of populations is discussed. The small and small-billed G. a. microrhyncha of the larger Marquesas islands is the most distinctive form, but it evidently interbreeds with larger birds resembling G. a. candida at 3 small Marquesas islands. Increased competition for nest-sites at these 3 small islands probably favors large Gygis with large bills, whereas smaller birds are evidently favored at the larger islands where there is little or no competition for nest sites.

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