Are species real?---tuatara

Ken Kinman kinman2 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Apr 12 19:39:24 CDT 2006

Hi Geoff,
     Unfortunately, I think "purportedly" is the operative word in this case.  The results of Hay et al., 2004 (published in the journal Heredity), seem to cast serious doubt on the claim that Sphenodon guntheri is a distinct species.  Their sequence data show that it is closer to the other Cook Strait populations.  This also makes much more sense geographically, and the likely result is going to be a single species of tuatara divisible into one southern subspecies and one northern subspecies.  And any simple coloration differences on that one particular island could very easily be a minor founder effect, so it made perfect sense to place guntheri in synonymy with all the other populations in one species.  Looks like sequence data will probably support that decision.
           Ken Kinman
Geoff Read wrote:
     Interestingly, there are purportedly two species of Tuatara reptile, which was one of Ken's other examples of single very distinct relict taxa with no near relatives. The 2nd, Sphenodon guntheri, had only a few hundred individuals left on one island rock stack when 'confirmed' (it had been described earlier but synonymised).

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