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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01302

Incomplete isolation in the nonbreeding areas of two genetically separated but sympatric short-tailed albatross populations

Naoki Tomita*, Fumio Sato, Jean-Baptiste Thiebot, Bungo Nishizawa, Masaki Eda, Hiroe Izumi, Satoshi Konno, Miwa Konno, Yutaka Watanuki

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The short-tailed albatross Phoebastria albatrus, a globally Vulnerable species recovering from near-extinction, breeds mainly on 2 island groups of the north-western Pacific: Torishima and Senkaku Islands. Recently, it became clear that this is a species complex, composed of 2 populations (‘Torishima’ and ‘Senkaku’ types) that are distinct from both genetic and morphological perspectives, and which mate assortatively on Torishima Island. We tested the hypothesis of premating isolation as a possible mechanism for genetic differentiation and shifted breeding date in short-tailed albatrosses. Using light-based geolocation and molecular analysis, we examined whether adults from the 2 populations breeding on Torishima Island differed in their at-sea distribution during the non-breeding period (June–September) and in their return dates. From 22 bird-tracks collected from 12 birds over 4 yr, we identified 2 distinct non-breeding areas: around the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea and near the Kuril Islands in the Okhotsk Sea. All 6 tracks of Torishima type birds migrated directly to the Bering Sea in all years. In contrast, most of the Senkaku type birds migrated along northeast Japan to the Okhotsk Sea (9 tracks), the others moving to the Bering Sea (7 tracks). There was no clear difference in the dates of return to Torishima between the 2 bird types. Overall, no absolute pre-mating isolation in space or time was observed in short-tailed albatrosses, but we highlighted notable divergences in the non-breeding distribution of both types. This result suggests that Torishima and Senkaku type populations should be treated as separate management units.