Penguin species distinguished in New Zealand

Researchers in New Zealand have discovered that the very rare yellow-eyed penguin is not a remnant population that survived overhunting, but a new species that moved in from the Antarctic

A team from the University of Adelaide, the University of Otago, and Canterbury Museum in New Zealand has identified a previously unknown penguin species while conducting research on New Zealand’s endangered yellow-eyed penguin, one the world’s rarest penguin species and the subject of an extensive conservation effort.

The Waitaha penguin became extinct after Polynesian settlement but before 1500 AD, creating an opportunity for the yellow-eyed penguin to subsequently colonise the New Zealand mainland from its base in the sub-Antarctic islands.

“Our findings demonstrate that yellow-eyed penguins on mainland New Zealand are not a declining remnant of a previous abundant population, but came from the sub-Antarctic relatively recently and replaced the extinct Waitaha Penguin,” said team member Dr Jeremy Austin, deputy director of the Australian Centre for Ancient DNA.

This shows how species can spread when biological barriers are removed.

University Of Adelaide (2008, November 19). ‘New’ Penguin Species In New Zealand Found Using Ancient DNA From Fossils. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/11/081118194528.htm

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