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Taxonomic discord (1 Viewer)

Peter Kovalik

Well-known member
Montague H. C. Neate‐Clegg J. David Blount Çağan H. Şekercioğlu. Ecological and biogeographical predictors of taxonomic discord across the world’s birds. Global Ecology and Biogeography. First Published: 7 April 2021 https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.13300



Species delimitation is fundamental to biology, but disagreement in species concepts and the application of those concepts can lead to substantial variation in species lists, with important implications for conservation. For birds, there are four widely used global checklists that vary in length and application. Here, we investigate the biogeographical and ecological predictors of taxonomic disagreement between the four world bird species lists.



Time period​


Major taxa studied​



We determined taxonomic agreement based on whether each bird species name represented only one species (‘agreement’), that is, no authorities have split the species, or represented multiple species (‘disagreement’) including disputed splits recognised by some authorities. We examined taxonomic agreement for all birds and for each family and biogeographical region. We then modelled taxonomic agreement as a function of six biogeographical and ecological variables: latitude, island endemism, log(mass), forest dependency, primary diet, and migratory status.


Overall taxonomic agreement was 89.5%, and the remaining 10th of taxonomic names represented disputed splits upon which the four authorities disagreed. We found that taxonomic agreement was lowest for species in Southeast Asia/Australasia and the Southern Ocean, understudied regions where islands have driven high levels of cryptic diversification. In contrast, agreement was highest in the temperate Northern Hemisphere where diversity is lower and research is more extensive. Agreement was also higher for large, migratory species living in open habitats.

Main conclusions​

Taxonomic agreement was higher for species that are easier to study such as large, temperate species from open habitats. In addition, agreement was lower for lineages that are more likely to undergo cryptic divergence such as island endemics with intermediate forest dependency and mobility. Species with these traits should be the focus of taxonomic research in order to achieve reconciliation of the world's bird lists and to better conserve extant biodiversity.

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