Date: 3/30/17 9:56 am
From: Lars Per Norgren <larspernorgren...>
Subject: [obol] Re: BREAKING NEWS-Interspecific sex, academic malfeasance ,
I view this proposal as bunkum. Dun and colleague bring no new or substantive evidence to the century old debate. They merely state that Snell, according to them the "world authority on the Iceland Gull complex" wants to lump Thayer's so that's good enough for them. The Thayer's Gull was elevated to full species status by the AOU (now "AOS") to some extent based on work by Smith. Smith made the cover of Scientific American with his work on Thayer's Gull about 1967. It involved eye make-up and sex. So one would fully expect a certain number of fellow academics to begin enthusiastically casting House Sparrow eggs at him. Smith spent three seasons in the Canadian arctic visiting gull colonies mostly. He claimed to have anesthetized gulls and then changed the color of their orbital rings. Glaucous Gulls with a different color orbital ring were passed over by their species and induced to breed with other species of gulls if presented with the right color eye-lid.
Snell attempted to revisit one colony two decades later, found no gulls, nor any lichens that would be evidence of a past gull colony. Smith had primarily been studying Semi-Plovers which were breeding sympatrically with their Eurasian sibling Ringed Plovers. The islands with the putative gulls were 30 km east of the plover nesting grounds, at the mouth of an ice-filled fjord on the coast of Baffin Island. Snell pointed out the amount of work Smith claimed to have done, which seemed physically impossible even if he had worked 24 hours a day. Then the logistics of reaching the islands without benefit of a helicopter...Snell said Smith was a bald-faced liar.
In the 1920s Herring Gulls appeared in Iceland where previously only Glaucous Gulls bred. They arrived on the east (Eurasian)side and gradually moved their range west to include the whole island. Some 40 years later Ingolfsson, a professor in Reykjavik, did a careful study of colonies throughout the island and documented the widespread hybridization of Glaucous Gulls with European Herring Gulls. He took many specimens. This hybrid swarm is alive and well in 2017 and has come to be universally referred to as "Viking Gull". Having gotten attention by attacking Smith, Snell went to Iceland and insisted that Viking Gulls are really pure Herring Gulls, but due to the founder effect had morphed into weird variants unlike their European forebears. The Auk published his paper in 1993. Vigdísdóttir et al revisited the question in this century, doing plenty of molecular work. White-headed, pink-footed gulls are not for the faint of heart at a molecular level. The very earliest Herring
Gulls collected in Iceland, the putative founders, were closer genetically to Glaucous Gulls from northern Norway than to Herring Gulls from the UK. Glaucous Gulls breeding in east Greenland were closer to Canadian and Siberian Glaucous Gulls than to those breeding in nw Iceland, only 400 miles away. Herring Gulls sampled from the 60s in Iceland often proved to be from the UK. There was steady in- migration to Iceland from Europe throughout the 20th century. There are now almost no Glaucous Gulls nesting in east Iceland, just Herring Gulls. Larophiles from Europe and America alike are baffled by what passes for "Herring Gull" in Iceland. It's sort of a parrellel universe.
Basically Snell was an academic ambulance chaser. The existence of two species, Thayer's and Iceland Gull, with Kumlien's the resultant hybrid swarm in between, works fine for me. It would also mean that 10s of thousands of listers would lose a tick, as their NA list relies on having seen a"Kumlien's" for the Iceland Gull on their list.
On Mar 29, 2017, at 11:48 AM, Mike Patterson wrote:

> Wrong cut and paste...
> --
> Mike Patterson
> Astoria, OR
> That question...
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