Differentiating sex and species of Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) and Clark's Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii) and their eggs using external morphometrics and discriminant function analysis

Waterbirds
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Abstract

In birds where males and females are similar in size and plumage, sex determination by alternative means is necessary. Discriminant function analysis based on external morphometrics was used to distinguish males from females in two closely related species: Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) and Clark's Grebe (A. clarkii). Additionally, discriminant function analysis was used to evaluate morphometric divergence between Western and Clark's grebe adults and eggs. Aechmophorus grebe adults (n = 576) and eggs (n = 130) were sampled across 29 lakes and reservoirs throughout California, USA, and adult sex was determined using molecular analysis. Both Western and Clark's grebes exhibited considerable sexual size dimorphism. Males averaged 6–26% larger than females among seven morphological measurements, with the greatest sexual size dimorphism occurring for bill morphometrics. Discriminant functions based on bill length, bill depth, and short tarsus length correctly assigned sex to 98% of Western Grebes, and a function based on bill length and bill depth correctly assigned sex to 99% of Clark's Grebes. Further, a simplified discriminant function based only on bill depth correctly assigned sex to 96% of Western Grebes and 98% of Clark's Grebes. In contrast, external morphometrics were not suitable for differentiating between Western and Clark's grebe adults or their eggs, with correct classification rates of discriminant functions of only 60%, 63%, and 61% for adult males, adult females, and eggs, respectively. Our results indicate little divergence in external morphology between species of Aechmophorus grebes, and instead separation is much greater between males and females.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Differentiating sex and species of Western Grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis) and Clark's Grebes (Aechmophorus clarkii) and their eggs using external morphometrics and discriminant function analysis
Series title Waterbirds
DOI 10.1675/063.039.0103
Volume 39
Issue 1
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher The Waterbird Society
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center, Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center, Contaminant Biology Program
Description 14 p.
First page 13
Last page 26
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N