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Taxonomic Relationships of Stictonetta naevosa (Gould)


THE systematic position of the freckled duck Stictonetta naevosa (Gould), Anatidae, of Australia has long been uncertain. In the most recent comprehensive investigations of the taxonomy of the family Anatidae1,2, based on behavioural characters as well as what were presumed to be non-adaptive anatomical features, including the structure of the trachea and syrinx, tarsus and the colour pattern of the downy young, three sub-families were recognized: Anseranatinae (magpie goose), Anserinae (swans, geese, and tree-ducks) and Anatinae (ducks). These authors recognized that Stictonetta possessed several features characteristic of the Anserinae, for example, the reticulate tarsus, and the lack of bulla, speculum and sexual dimorphism; but, as there was no information available on the bird's behaviour nor on the plumage pattern of its downy young, they preferred to consider it, tentatively, an aberrant member of the Anatinae. Johnsgard3, considering the anatomical analysis of waterfowl of Verheyen4, speculated whether the bird could really be Anserinae. Recent work in the field and with captive birds now enables the species to be classified with more confidence.

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FRITH, H. Taxonomic Relationships of Stictonetta naevosa (Gould). Nature 202, 1352–1353 (1964).

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