Multi-locus barcoding confirms the occurrence of Elegant Tern in Western Europe

Paul DuFour, Jean-Marc Pons, J. Martin Collinson, Julien Gernigon, José Ignacio Dies, Patricia Sourouille, Pierre-Andre Crochet

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We used sequences from one mitochondrial gene and six nuclear loci to confirm genetically the presumed identity of four large terns with an orange bill seen in Western Europe over the past decades. This multilocus genotyping (multilocus barcoding) approach confirmed that one bird was a Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis, as suspected based on its phenotype, and identified the three other birds as pure Elegant Terns Sterna elegans. This last result was again in accordance with the appearance of these birds even if their identity had long been considered as unproven. In comparison with traditional (single-locus) barcoding, our approach allowed us to unambiguously exclude that these birds were first-generation hybrids or backcrosses involving Elegant Terns or other species of orange-billed terns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351–361
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Ornithology
Issue number2
Early online date9 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

We are very grateful to the following people who helped in various ways with sample collection: Jérome Fuchs and Eric Pasquet (National Museum of Natural History, Paris), Sharon M. Birks (Burke Museum of Naturel History of Seattle), Charlotte Francesiaz, Benjamin Vollot and Gilles Balança (Sandwich Tern, France), Charles Collins (Elegant Tern, USA), Arnaud Lenoble (Royal Tern, Guadeloupe), Lorien Pichegru (Crested Tern, South Africa), Abdulmaula Hamza (Lesser Crested Tern, Libya) and Clive Barlow (The Gambia). Marcio Efe and Eli Bridge helped with genotyping and shared unpublished sequences. We thank Juan Antonio Gómez for advice and Miguel Chardí and Francisco Javier García-Gans for field assistance in Valencia (Spain). Mathias Grandpierre (Société pour l’Etude et l’Aménagement de la Nature dans le Sud-Ouest) helped with fieldwork at the Banc d’Arguin (France). All the experiments comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed.


  • genetic identification
  • multilocus barcoding
  • nuclear DNA
  • hybridization
  • long range vagrancy


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