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VTBIRD  April 2007

VTBIRD April 2007

Subject:

Duck hybrids, and genera

From:

Bruce Parfitt <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 14 Apr 2007 21:40:20 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (84 lines)

I'm no expert in the taxonomy or hybridization of ducks, but here's a
relevant experience I had:  In the Great Lakes of the Midwest one can
see more divers than dabblers, but the vast majority are on
migration.  One March I photographed a flock of 14 ducks, males and
females all paired up; 6 pairs of Ring-necks and one Redhead male
with one female... but female-what?  Redhead and Ring-neck females
look so similar I can't be sure which species the male Redhead is
swimming with.  (at least I can't tell in my photo)  To a botanist
who has documented a lot of plant hybridization, this looked like a
hybridization about to happen, but I could not be certain.  That
brings up another question.  How accurately can male Redheads
distinguish their species' females from Ring-necks?  Probably some
specialist knows the answer and would say it has more to do with
behavior than color patterns. 

On the question of hybrids between genera (plural of genus):
Such hybrids do occur but are much less frequent and are much more
likely to be sterile.  In the taxonomic hierarchy organisms are
increasingly more closely related as we go from Kindgom on down to
species and subspecies.  So species are more closely related than
genera are to one another.

I could add that one reason for taxonomists' indecision regarding
"two species vs. two subspecies" is that they encounter many groups
of organisms (a.k.a. "taxa"... singular="taxon") that don't quite fit
the biological definition or phylogenetic definition for species or
genera.  It's biology; exceptions abound.  That's what keeps it
interesting!

Bruce Parfitt
Johnson, VT


--- jane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Thanks for asking the duck question, Charlotte!
> 
> If anybody is knowledgeable about duck hybridization, I hope
> they'll 
> expound on the subject here.  From what I can tell, it seems to
> happen a 
> lot more with dabbling ducks than divers, but that may only be
> because 
> we miserable humans see more of the dabblers than of the divers. 
> Mallards in particular seem to know no season and appear to be
> willing 
> to try a tumble with anything that moves, and some things that
> don't.
> 
> Charlotte asks particularly about cross-genus hybridization, or at
> least 
> fraternization.  Is cross-genus hybridization possible in general,
> or is 
> that part of the definition of genus?
> 
> Jane
> 
> 
> Charlotte Bill wrote:
> 
> 
> > That said, when I engaged in drive-by birding on my way to and
> from work 
> > today, I saw Canada Geese and Great Blue Herons at Lake Lamoille
> in 
> > Morrisville, as well as previously reported Mallards and Wood
> Ducks. New 
> > today were Hooded Mergansers. All different species, all
> different genus 
> > (sheesh, what's the plural of genus?). In an earlier post, Hector
> 
> > mentioned something about the sex lives of ducks, but surely
> these 
> > ducks, Anas, Aix, and Lophodytes, weren't messing around with
> each 
> > other, genus to genus. Or could they have been?
> 


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