Genetic and morphological variation in Dunlin Calidris alpina breeding in the Palearctic tundra
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The extensive overlap in morphological characters between populations of Dunlin Calidris alpina imposes problems of determining the origin of migrating and wintering birds. The morphology of the birds also varies between the sexes, and the sex of a Dunlin may often be difficult to determine. To clarify if mitochondrial DNA can be used to identify which breeding areas migrating Dunlin come from, we investigated the occurrence of different mtDNA haplotypes in Dunlin from eight breeding areas on the Russian and Siberian tundra. Four haplotypes were found and at most sites more than one haplotype occurred. The European haplotype predominated in the area west of the Taymyr Peninsula, the Siberian haplotype in central Siberia (from the Taymyr Peninsula to the Lopatka Peninsula) and the Beringian haplotype in eastern Siberia. One individual of an Alaskan haplotype, not detected previously among breeding birds outside North America, was found on Wrangel Island. The sex of each bird was identified genetically and the morphology of males and females was analysed separately. Birds with the European haplotype were generally smaller than birds with the Beringian or Alaskan haplotypes. Birds possessing the Siberian haplotype showed intermediate values in most cases. After compensating for differences between sites, males with the Siberian haplotype had significantly longer bills than males having the European haplotype. Multiple regressions indicate that mitochondrial DNA analysis improves models estimating the breeding origin of migrating Dunlin.