It is widely accepted that the gadfly petrels of the Macaronesian islands comprise three closely related and morphologically similar taxa, Petrodroma madeira from Madeira island, P. deserta (also treated as P. feae deserta) from Bugio and P. feae (also treated as P. feae feae) from Cape Verde Islands. However, the taxonomic rank of each taxon is not well defined, and has been subject to a long debate. Partial sequences of cytochrome b (893 bp) from 39 individuals (five from Madeira, 18 from nearby Bugio, and 16 from Fogo) and morphometric data from five characters from 102 individuals (74 from Bugio and 28 from Fogo in Cape Verde), were used to compare and estimate phylogenetic relationships and the taxonomic status of these petrels. In the phylogenetic analysis and sequence divergence estimation, we also include 23 sequences of 19 Pterodroma species available from GenBank. Our results show that Macaronesian gadfly petrels form a monophyletic clade. Birds from Bugio and Cape Verde are the most closely related taxa followed by those from Madeira. The group formed by the three taxa studied is closely related to Bermuda Petrel P. cahow and Black-capped Petrel P. hasitata. A hypothesis for the colonization of the islands is presented. The level of sequence divergence is sufficient to consider the populations of Bugio and Cape Verde as separate species. Reproductive isolation is supported by exclusive haplotypes and fixed changes. Despite the presence of some significant differences in bill and tarsus measurements, the two species seem to be morphologically similar because the great overlap of variation intervals in the measurements hinders identification. It therefore appears suitable for consideration as a cryptic species. An important conservation implication is that the world population of both species is very small; if treated as a full species, deserta on Bugio may qualify for uplisting to ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List.
(Received May 07 2008)
(Accepted October 17 2008)