U.S. Department of Commerce


Date of this Version



Published as NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS.


We reviewed the subspecies listed by Rice (1998) and those described since (a total of 49, in 19 species), assessing them against the criteria recommended by the recent Workshop on Shortcomings of Cetacean Taxonomy in Relation to Needs of Conservation and Management (Reeves et al., 2004). The workshop suggested that the subspecies concept can be construed to cover two types of entities: a) lineages diverging but not quite far along the continuum of divergence (still having significant gene flow with another lineage or lineages) to be judged as species, and b) lineages that may well be species but for which not enough evidence is yet available to justify their designation as such. As a criterion for support of a subspecies, the workshop suggested as a guideline that there be at least one good line of either morphological or appropriate genetic evidence. "Appropriate" was not defined; the recommendation was that that be left up to the taxonomist authors of subspecies and to their professional peers. A further recommendation was that evidence on distribution, behavior and ecology should be considered not as primary but as supporting evidence, as there was not agreement at the workshop that such characters are necessarily stable (in the case of distribution) or inherent (behavior and ecology).