Larus Gulls are Not Ring Species

Larus Gull

Source: Viviane Sternkopf

The Ring Species Concept was first suggested in 1905 and then later formalized in the 1940’s. It suggested that the evolutionary process of speciation could be seen across geographic space by showing distant variations of the same animal could not interbreed. In 1925, Jonathan Dwight suggested that a circumpolar chain of Larus Gull varieties might qualify as a Ring Species. With further study, it was found that the Larus Gull chain is much more complex than at first assumed and that interbreeding does occur in the wild resulting in fertile offspring. Therefore, the Larus Gulls do not qualify as a Ring Species.

Larus Gull Varieties

The Larus Gulls, including Larus argentatus and Larus fuscus varieties, live along the coastlines of North America, Northern Asia, and Northern Europe. The various populations surround the circumpolar regions of the norther latitudes. The suggested ends of the ring includes the Herring Gulls and the Lesser Black-backed Gulls, but the complex probably includes the Yellow Legged Gull, the Glaucous Gull, and the Caspian Gull.

Larus Gull Ring Species

Liebers, Knijff, and Helbig (2004)

Expected Appearance of Ring Species

By definition, there are several basic characteristics that must be matched by a plant or animal to qualify as a Ring Species. The three most prominent characteristics are: 1) a series of connected populations encircling a geographic barrier, 2) continuous gene flow along both branches of the ring, and 3) the end populations must be sufficiently different to prohibit interbreeding where they come together.

Actual Appearance of the Larus Populations

Mitochondrial DNA studies show extensive hybridization through much of the different species. Furthermore, the Herring Gull group, including L. argentatus, L. vegae, and L. smithsonianus, are distinct taxa which are not each others closest relatives which would normally be expected in Ring Species. Simple observation of the Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull show that the hybrids are fertile and with pairings being found in Britain, Ireland, France, and Denmark.

Conclusion

The Larus Gull complex does not meet to of the necessary requirements for being considered a Ring Species.

Other Ring Species Articles

  • 1) The Ensatina Salamanders surrounding the Central Valley of California
  • 2) The Larus Gulls near the Arctic Circle
  • 3) The Greenish Warbler surrounding the Tibeten Plateau
  • 4) The Crimson Rosella Parrot in Australia
  • 5) The Caribbean Slipper Spurge in Central America.
  • For Further Information:

  • 1) Liebers, D., Knijff, P., and Helbig, A. (2004). The herring gull complex is not a ring species. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2004 271, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2004.2679
  • 2) Liebers-Helbig, D., Sternkopf, V., Helbig, A., and Knijff, P. (2010). The Herring Gull Complex (Larus argentatus – fuscus – cachinnans) as a Model Group for Recent Holarctic Vertebrate Radiations.
  • XXXIII. Last Updated: 08/01/2016
    Todd Elder

    Todd Elder

    Todd Elder has a deep desire to understand and experience Creation. As a Baraminologist, his current research includes developing the Katagenos Species Concept, the Natanzera Classification System, and the Floral Formula Method of determining Plant Kinds. As an author and speaker, his books and seminar materials are designed to encourage a growing relationship with the Creator.
    Todd Elder

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