The Claytonia arctica Complex in Alaska—Analyzing a Beringian Taxonomic Puzzle Using Taxonomic Concepts

  • Stefanie M. Ickert-Bond University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • David Murray University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Margaret G. Oliver University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Hazel K. Berrios University of Alaska Fairbanks
  • Campbell O. Webb University of Alaska Fairbanks
Keywords: Alignment, Beringia, Claytonia arctica complex, herbarium specimens, synthesis, taxonomic concepts


Trans-Beringia taxa often present complex puzzles for taxonomists, a reflection of differing traditions and opinions, taxonomic approaches, and access to material from both sides of the Bering Strait. There is wide biological variation in perceived or circumscribed taxa whose populations are widespread within the regions and yet biogeographically isolated in Asia and/or America. The Claytonia arctica complex is one such example; it illustrates these issues well and has been dealt with by North American and Russian botanists in decidedly different ways. We reviewed specimens and examined the various taxonomic concepts of C. arctica through time and source publications. The relationships (alignments) among taxonomic concepts are presented in a graphical format. We found that much of the confusion related to C. arctica in Beringia stems from overlooking
C. scammaniana Hultén sensu Hultén (1939), and placing too much emphasis on the woody caudex and perennation structures, during the creation of two taxonomic concepts: C. arctica Adams sensu Porsild and C. porsildii Jurtzev sensu Yurtsev. The C. arctica complex (in our current sense) is an evolutionary work in progress, resulting in partially differentiated races with much overlapping variability and intergradation of characters (particularly in C. scammaniana according to our current sense) that have not reached the level of stability (i.e., individuals may still intergrade freely) usually associated with the concept of species in other arctic lineages.