Resolving the Calidris maritima subspecies complex around the North Atlantic Flyway (Aves: Charidriiformes: Scolopacidae)
The Icelandic Purple Sandpiper Calidris maritima littoralis represents one member of a poorly understood subspecies complex among species within the North Atlantic flyway. Currently, morphologic characters define two other subspecies, C. m. belcheri, which breeds in northeastern Canada, and C. m. maritima, which breeds along the arctic coasts in northwestern Eurasia. Considering the extent of the icesheet in the northern hemisphere during the last Ice Age and short period since the Last Glacial Maxima, the attribution of the subspecies status of the Purple Sandpiper may either reflect a rapid diversification or an ancestral split of distinct evolutionary lineages which survived in isolation at southern latitudes. Applying a morphometric subspecies criteria and genetic analysis to geographically diverse breeding populations will clarify the applicability of the subspecies attributions. Due to its recognition as the most northerly breeding bird, the Purple Sandpiper could provide an interesting perspective on the evolutionary changes following an expansion of a species northward following the Last Glacial Maxima. Using mitochondrial barcodes, and autosomal and sex-linked intron markers, population delineations within the Atlantic Holarctic are hoped to be resolved. Preliminary data suggests that subspecies status is unwarranted, however incoming data may reverse that evaluation.