MEPS 451:285-304 (2012)  -  doi:10.3354/meps09694

Use of molecular genetics for understanding seabird evolution, ecology and conservation

Scott A. Taylor, Vicki L. Friesen*

Department of Biology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Information on genetic variation within and among populations of highly mobile organisms such as seabirds is necessary for understanding their evolution and ecology, and can be a tool for conservation. Recent developments in molecular genetics, including efficient mutation-detection methods and automated sequencing, are providing detailed genetic information for non-model organisms. Furthermore, theoretical advances such as coalescent theory and molecular assignments are providing powerful tools to determine species’ historical and contemporary abundance, distributions and movements. We review advances for studying phylogenetics, population genetics, hybridization, ecology and conservation in seabirds and summarize recent studies in each field. All fields will benefit from larger data sets and more sophisticated analytical methods. Phylogenetic studies will provide a more robust determination of evolutionary history, while studies of population genetics and hybridization will be elevated to genomic-level avenues of inquiry. Ecological studies may benefit from improved molecular assignments, and conservation-focussed studies will benefit from an increased understanding of seabird evolution and ecology. In addition, we highlight that combination of new molecular and analytical tools with data on morphology, behaviour and movements is especially powerful for understanding seabird evolution and ecology, and for aiding conservation.


KEY WORDS: Gene flow · Hybridization · Molecular assignments · Population genetic structure · Phylogeography · Phylogenetics · Population size · Review


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Cite this article as: Taylor SA, Friesen VL (2012) Use of molecular genetics for understanding seabird evolution, ecology and conservation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 451:285-304

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