Annotated List of the Seabirds of the World - Albatrosses


Albatrosses


The true 'Ocean Wanderer'! A Northern Royal Albatorss soars without effort on its huge wings.
 
Systematics and evolution of the Albatrosses

Until recently, the albatrosses have divided into two or three groups consisting of the so-called 'Great' albatrosses (Diomedea), the medium-sized Northern Pacific albatrosses (Phoebastria), the medium-sized Southern 'Mollymawks' (Thalassarche) and the exquisite Sooty Albatrosses (Phoebetria). Historically, there has been much confusion due to the frequent collection of albatrosses at sea. What were thought to be distinct forms (i.e. new species or subspecies) often turned out to be immature stages of known species. Recently, Gary Nunn and colleagues used mitochondrial cytochrome-b sequences to re-evaluate the phylogenetic relationships within the albatrosses (Nunn et al. 1996). This study concluded that the traditional genus Diomedea is in fact paraphyletic, thus supporting the four subgroups outlined above. Robertson and Nunn (1998) urge for a generous rather than conservative approach towards albatross systematics as a way to maximize conservation efforts. Obviously numerically limited 'taxa' will benefit in terms of conservation effort by being distinguised from more abundant taxa. Russ and Shirihai (2000) treat the suggested splits as allospecies rather than full species.

Identification: Albatross identification is complicated by geographical, age-related and sex-related variation (see individual accounts for more information).

Range: It is often said that albatrosses are restricted to the oceans of the southern hemisphere because of their need for wind. This is simply not true. Firstly, albatrosses are common in the north Pacific, where three species are endemic. Secondly, the fossil record indicates that albatrosses once enjoyed a more cosmopolitan distribution and extinct albatrosses are known from many northern hemisphere locations including North Carolina, England, Bermuda and California.  Thirdly, southern albatrosses regularly wander into the North Atlantic and North Pacific. 


Diomedea exulans Snowy [Wandering] Albatross (VULNERABLE)
Monotypic
Also known as Snowy Albatross or White-winged Albatross

Diomedea dabbenena Tristan Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly considered subspecies of Wandering Albatross

Diomedea antipodensis Antipodean Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly considered subspecies of Wandering Albatross

Diomedea gibsoni Gibson's Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly considered subspecies of Wandering Albatross

Diomedea amsterdamensis Amsterdam Albatross (CRITICAL)
Monotypic


A pair of Southern Royal Albatross nesting amongst wind-swept tussock grass on Campbell Island, New Zealand. Photo copyright of Angus Wilson.

Diomedea epomophora Southern Royal Albatross (NEAR THREATENED)
Monotypic

Diomedea sanfordi Northern Royal Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic

Diomedea irrorata Waved Albatross (NEAR THREATENED)
Monotypic
Also known as Galapagos Albatross

Diomedea albatrus Short-tailed Albatross (ENDANGERED)
Monotypic
Also known as Steller's Albatross

Diomedea nigripes Black-footed Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic

Diomedea immutabilis Laysan Albatross
Monotypic

Diomedea melanophrys Black-browed Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Now monotypic
Formerly genus Thalassarche
Also known as Black-browed Mollymawk

Diomedea impavida Campbell Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly subspecies of Black-browed Albatross.
Formally genus Thalassarche

Diomedea cauta Shy Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Now monotypic. Also known as Tasmanian Shy Albatross.
Formerly genus Thalassarche

Diomedea steadi White-capped Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly subspecies of Shy Albatross. Also known as Auckland Shy Albatross.
Formerly genus Thalassarche

Diomedea salvini Salvin's Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly subspecies of Shy Albatross.
Formerly genus Thalassarche
Also known as Bounty Albatross or Grey-backed Albatross

Diomedea eremita Chatham Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly subspecies of Shy Albatross.
Formerly genus Thalassarche

Diomedea chrysostoma Grey-headed Albatross (NEAR THREATENED)
Monotypic
Formerly genus Thalassarche
Also known as Flat-billed Albatross, Gould's Albatross, Grey-mantled Albatross, Yellow-nosed Albatross(!), and Grey-headed Mollymawk.

Diomedea chlororhynchos Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly genus Thalassarche
Also known as Carter's Albatross(?)

Diomedea carteri Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly genus Thalassarche

Diomedea bulleri Buller's Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly genus Thalassarche
Also known as Buller's Mollymawk

Diomedea nov.sp.? Pacific Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Formerly the platei subspecies of Buller's Albatross.
Formerly genus Thalassarche

Phoebetria fusca Sooty Albatross (NEAR THREATENED)
Monotypic
Also known as Dark-mantled Sooty Albatross

Phoebetria palpebrata Light-mantled Albatross (new candidate for consideration)
Monotypic
Also known as Light-mantled Sooty Albatross or Grey-mantled Albatross


Key literature on albatross taxonomy and general biology

Enticott, J. and Tipling, D. (1997) Photographic Guide to Seabirds of the World. New Holland, London.

Nunn, G. B. and Stanley, S. E. (1998) Body size effects and rates of cytochrome b evolution in tube-nosed seabirds. Mol. Biol. Evol., 15(10): 1360-1371.

Nunn, G. B., Cooper, J., Jouventin, P., Robertson, C. J. R. and Robertson G. G. (1996) Evolutionary relationships among extant albatrosses (Procellariiformes: Diomedeidae) established from complete cytochrome-b gene sequences. Auk 113: 784-801.

Robertson, C. J. R. and Nunn, G. B. (1998) Towards a new taxonomy for albatrosses. In 'Albatross Biology and Conservation'. (Eds. Robertson, G. and Gales, R.) Chp 2, p 13-19. Surrey Beatty and Sons Ltd.

Robertson, G. and Gales, R. (1998) Albatross Biology and Conservation. Surrey Beatty and Sons Ltd. (ISBN 0 949324 82 5).

Russ, R. and Shirihai, H. (2000) The birds, marine mammals, habitat and history of the subantarctic islands off New Zealand. Alula 3(6): 82-147.

Shirihai, H. and Jarrett, B. (2002) A complete Guide to Antarctic Wildlife: the birds and marine mammals of the Antarctic Continent and Southern Ocean. Alula Press, Degerby, Finland.

Tickell, W. L. N. (2000) Albatrosses. Yale University Press.

Tickell, W.L.N. (1970) The great albatrosses. Scientific American 223(5): p84-93.


Copyright © 2002 All rights reserved. Angus Wilson
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