Poster Annual Conference of the Genetics Society of Australasia with the NZ Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Genomic analysis of hybridisation between the endemic kakī (black stilt), and the self-introduced poaka (pied stilt) (588)

Natalie J Forsdick 1 , Richard Maloney 2 , Tammy Steeves 3 , Michael Knapp 1
  1. Anatomy, University of Otago, Dunedin, OTAGO, New Zealand
  2. Department of Conservation, Wellington, NZ
  3. School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ

The Kakī (Black Stilt; Himantopus novaezelandiae) is a New Zealand endemic wading bird, restricted to the Upper Waitaki Basin in the central South Island. The Kakī is listed as nationally critical, due to habitat loss and modification, and predation. A captive breeding programme exists to improve breeding success and survival, with juveniles and sub-adults released to supplement the wild population. This, in combination with predator control, has resulted in the population increasing from ~23 individuals in 1981 to around 100 wild adults today. However, during the population decline throughout the 1900s, hybridisation has occurred with the closely-related Poaka (Pied Stilt; Himantopus himantopus leucocephalus). Hybridisation is of conservation concern when it involves rare native species, as it may negatively impact species recovery due to wasted reproductive potential, outbreeding depression, and may directly contribute to species extinction through genetic admixture. Previous genetic studies have used a small number of microsatellite and mitochondrial markers to determine the extent of introgression between Kakī and Poaka. With recent improvements in sequencing technologies, it is now possible to conduct a genome-wide investigation of the potential effects of introgression between these two species. This will involve de novo whole-genome assembly of modern Kakī to enable comparisons with Australian Pied Stilts, North Island Poaka, and historic/ancient Kakī samples to investigate the effects of a complex history of hybridisation. The results of this study will provide information for the Department of Conservation Kakī Recovery Programme, to ensure the survival and recovery of this critically endangered bird.