Hybrid Geese in Finnish Hunting Bags

Time to share a paper on hybridization in a bird group that is close to my heart: geese. I obtained my PhD studying the role of hybridization in the evolutionary history of the True Geese (see here for several publications). For some reason, you develop an unbreakable bond with the topic of your PhD thesis. But enough sentimental jibber-jabber, let’s dive into this week’s avian hybrids paper.


Some Taxonomy

The Bean Goose complex is a taxonomic nightmare. The current classification encompasses three species: the Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus), the Taiga Bean Goose (A, fabalis, three subspecies) and the Tundra Bean Goose (A. serrirostris, two subspecies), although some authorities lump Taiga and Tundra Bean Goose together. However, based on analyses of the mitochondrial control region, Ruokonen et al. (2008) identified three distinct lineages: the Pink-footed Goose, the Middendorff’s Goose (currently a subspecies of Taiga Bean Goose), and the Bean Goose (currently split in Taiga and Tundra Bean Goose). Ottenburghs et al. (2016a), on the other hand, reported a sister species relation between Pink-footed Goose and Tundra Bean Goose. The phylogenetic relationships in this complex are highly influenced by rapid speciation and hybridization.


Hybrids in the Hunting Bag

Johanna Honka (University of Oulu, Finland) and colleagues collected Bean Geese that were shot by Finnish hunters between 2010 and 2013. A genetic analysis, based on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and microsatellites, revealed that most shot geese belonged to the Taiga (sub)species.

More interesting (from an avian hybrids point of view), one individual carried mtDNA from a Pink-footed Goose, while another individual had Greater White-fronted Goose (A. albifrons) DNA. This confirms the idea that there is a lot of hybridization going on in geese (see here for an review on hybrid geese; Ottenburghs et al. 2016b).

bean goose x pink-footed goose

A possible Bean Goose x Pink-footed Goose (from http://www.gobirding.eu/)


Honka, J., Kvist, L., Heikkinen, M. E., Helle, P., Searle, J. B. & Aspi, J. (2017). Determining the subspecies composition of bean goose harvests in Finland using genetic methods. European Journal of Wildlife Research 63, 19.

Ottenburghs, J., Megens, H. J., Kraus, R. H., Madsen, O., van Hooft, P., van Wieren, S. E., Crooijmans, R. P., Ydenberg, R. C., Groenen, M. A. & Prins, H. H. (2016a). A tree of geese: A phylogenomic perspective on the evolutionary history of True Geese. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 101, 303-313.

Ottenburghs, J., van Hooft, P., van Wieren, S. E., Ydenberg, R. C. & Prins, H. H. T. (2016b). Hybridization in geese: a review. Frontiers in Zoology 13, 1-9.

Ruokonen, M., Litvin, K. & Aarvak, T. (2008). Taxonomy of the bean goose-pink-footed goose. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48, 554-562.


This paper has been added to the Anseriformes page.


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