Journal of Ornithology

, Volume 150, Issue 1, pp 45–53 | Cite as

Phylogeography of the Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa: substructuring revealed by mtDNA control region sequences

  • Jacob HöglundEmail author
  • Tomas Johansson
  • Albert Beintema
  • Hans Schekkerman
Original Article


Black-tailed (Limosa limosa) and Hudsonian Godwits (L. haemastica) are sometimes described as a superspecies. The Black-tailed Godwit is further split into three subspecies on the basis of morphological differences (L. l. limosa, L. l. islandica and L. l. melanuroides). We studied variation in partial mtDNA control region sequences among Black-tailed and Hudsonian Godwits which showed 5% divergence. Black-tailed and Hudsonian Godwits were thus clearly differentiated and the separate species status for the two taxa is validated. All three subspecies described for the Black-tailed Godwit had unique haplotypes but the genetic distances were small (0.3–0.6%). Despite small genetic differences we could not detect any substantial gene flow between any of the subspecies as haplotypes were private to each subspecies. Thus, genetic variation within Black-tailed Godwits showed a clear geographic structure. We found a high proportion of rare private haplotypes in three fringe populations of the nominate subspecies of the Black-tailed Godwit (L. l. limosa) where godwits breed in low numbers, but no genetic variation at all in a sample from the Netherlands where godwits are abundant. This suggests that Dutch Godwits may have been affected by a founder effect.


Gene flow Population structure Phylogeography mtDNA Black-tailed Godwit Hudsonian Godwit 



We thank E. Potapov, E. Strelnikov, I. Fefelov, V. Khrokov, A. Yurlov and P. Tomkovich who helped us to obtain samples from the former USSR. G. Flyckt and C. Cederoth collected samples in Sweden, L. van de Bergh in the Netherlands, G. Gerritsen and N. Groen collected samples on Iceland and J. van Gils in Canada. Collection of material complied with the legislation in the respective country. G. Segelbacher and the late H. Tegelström commented on several manuscripts and discussed the interpretations of the data. The study was supported by the Swedish NFR (grant to J.H.) and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (grant to T.J.).


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Copyright information

© Dt. Ornithologen-Gesellschaft e.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacob Höglund
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tomas Johansson
    • 2
  • Albert Beintema
    • 3
  • Hans Schekkerman
    • 4
  1. 1.Population Biology/EBCUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Animal Ecology/EBCUppsalaSweden
  3. 3.BioWriteVlissingenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Dutch Centre for Avian Migration and DemographyNetherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)HeterenThe Netherlands

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