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Geographic Variation; Subspecies
Monotypic. No races described, and only slight geographic variation described in brightness of fresh Alternate plumage and wing and bill length, with breeding populations in Canada and w. Siberia largest, Greenland breeders smallest, and e. Siberian populations intermediate (for details, see Prater et al. 1977, Cramp and Simmons 1983). Individuals wintering in New Jersey and Texas are larger than those wintering in Panama and Peru. Individuals wintering in North America might be from a different population, or represent a distinctive sub-set of individuals within the same population, than those wintering in Central and South America (Castro et al. 1992).
The precise phylogenetic relationships among calidridine sandpipers remains open to a thorough revision. Sanderling has been part of broader morphological (Chu 1995) and molecular genetic analyses (Dittmann et al. 1989, Dittmann and Zink 1991) aimed at elucidating relationships among other shorebirds. Partial phylogenetic analysis of calidridine sandpipers using sequences of mitochondrial DNA (cytochrome b gene; Borowik and McLennan 1999) placed Sanderling within a clade of typical Calidris —e.g., among those species studied, Little Stint (C. minuta) and Least (C. minutilla), Semipalmated (C. pusilla), Western (C. mauri), Baird’s (C. bairdii), White-rumped (C. fuscicollis), and Pectoral (C. melanotos) sandpipers. Sanderling currently classified in subfamily Scolopacinae, tribe Calidridini by Am. Ornithol. Union (1998). Sanderling unique among scolopacids in lacking hallux (hind toe), and in the past has been placed in a monospecific genus, Crocethia .
No direct observations of hybridization known among Calidris sandpipers, but Clark (1987) reported an unusual Calidris thought to be a hybrid Sanderling × Dunlin (C. alpina).