Fulmars are a distinct but diverse group of petrels that evolved from an early split from the ancient tubenose lineage, around 15 My ago (Sibley & Ahlquist 1990). Penhallurick & Wink (2004) calculated a much earlier evolution of the fulmars, more than 26 My ago, and Nunn (1994) placed the origin of the fulmarines in late Oligocene > 23 My ago.
Most species of this group occur in the Southern Hemisphere. Fulmarus glacialis is the only northern representative. Although there is a great difference in size, bill shape, colouring and behaviour, the members of this group show strong similarities in their skeletal structure. The differences are very much related to the environment they occupy and their respective foraging strategies. The enourmous hooked bill of the Giant Petrel (Macronectes) is the perfect tool for this 'vulture of the southern seas'. The small bill of the Snow Petrel (Pagodroma) and the relative broad bill of the Cape Pigeon (Daption) are each good examples of the variety of feeding strategies on the other end of the spectrum. The 'true' Fulmars (Fulmarus) and the Antarctic Petrel (Thalassoica) take a position somewhere in between.
The evolution and taxonomy of the fulmars is treated in the respective chapters.
- Giant Petrels Macronectes
- 'True' Fulmars Fulmarus
- Antarctic Petrel Thalassoica
- Cape Pigeon Daption
- Snow Petrel Pagodroma