Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 150, Issue 2, pp 431–457 | Cite as

Morphometric characterisation of treecreepers (genus Certhia)

  • Dieter Thomas Tietze
  • Jochen Martens
Original Article


Lengths of hind claw, tarsus, bill, wing and tail plus bill depth and width, wing tip and tail graduation were measured in nearly 2,000 specimens from all nine currently accepted Certhia species and most subspecies to provide morphometric characterisation. In a discriminant analysis for all species, only C. [discolor], C. nipalensis and C. tianquanensis were clearly separated from each other and from the remaining set of five species. Nevertheless, a cluster analysis produced dendrograms approximating the current molecular phylogeny of the genus. Thus, there is an overall relatively low morphometric diversity among Certhia treecreepers. Recently split allospecies can only partly be distinguished: the disjunct C. [discolor] taxa exhibit no clear affiliation to either allospecies, C. discolor or C. manipurensis, while in C. [familiaris] the species split is corroborated on one hand by a break in geographic trends and on the other by clear separability of neighbouring heterospecific populations. Also, in areas of sympatry, Certhia species differ markedly in body measurements related to the peculiar adaptations of treecreepers to their habitat (tree bark): i.e. bill, claw and tail measurements. The same applies to sexual dimorphism: males, on average larger in all body measurements, have, in particular, longer bills, possibly in order to better exploit the limited food and partition it between the two sexes.


Certhia Morphometrics Niche partitioning Sexual dimorphism 



The following persons made collection material available for this study: Paul Sweet, Shannon Kenney, Mary LeCroy (AMNH), Siegfried Eck (†), Martin Päckert (MTD), Carla Cicero (MVZ), Fritz Geller-Grimm (MWHN), Robert Prŷs-Jones, Mark Adams (NHM), Anita Gamauf (NMW), Göran Frisk (NRM), Janet Hinshaw (UMMZ), Stefanie Rick (ZFMK), Sylke Frahnert (ZMB), Cordula Bracker (ZMH), Ruth Diesener (ZSM). Evangelisches Studienwerk e.V. Villigst supported D.T.T.’s graduation and financed his stay at the AMNH. This research received support from the SYNTHESYS Project which is financed by European Community Research Infrastructure Action under the FP6 “Structuring the European Research Area” Programme. Feldbausch-Stiftung and Wagner-Stiftung provided funds for J.M. Two anonymous referees made useful suggestions that improved the manuscript. Many cordial thanks are due to all friends, colleagues and organisations mentioned. For D.T.T., this paper fulfils part of the requirements for the Dr. rer. nat. degree from the Fachbereich Biologie, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz.


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für ZoologieJohannes Gutenberg-UniversitätMainzGermany
  2. 2.Museum für Tierkunde, Staatliche Naturhistorische SammlungenDresdenGermany

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