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

Detecting genetic divergence in a relict New Zealand seabird (745)

Aisling Rayne 1 , Chris P Gaskin 2 , Mark Miller 3 , Stephanie M H Ismar 4 5 , Karen A Baird 6 , Tammy E Steeves 1
  1. School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  2. Northern New Zealand Seabird Trust, Warkworth, New Zealand
  3. Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
  4. GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, Experimental Ecology, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, Kiel, Germany
  5. School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
  6. Forest & Bird, Auckland, New Zealand

The inclusion of a conservation genomic approach promises to be indispensable for detecting genetic divergence, particularly for relatively poorly studied species with divergent phenotypes. We are using genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) data to determine whether ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ breeding populations of New Zealand’s threatened Kermadec petrel (Pterodroma neglecta neglecta) represent genetically divergent lineages. The Kermadec Island group, ~1,000 km northeast of New Zealand, currently hosts >10,000 breeding pairs of Kermadec petrel in which two divergent breeding behaviours are represented. Most are ‘winter’ breeders (laying February-April), however a small number ‘summer’ breeders (~250 breeding pairs, laying October-November) have been identified on the Meyer Islands, 4 km from Raoul Island (the largest of the Kermadec Island group). These ‘summer’ breeders represent the last survivors of a great population once hosted by Raoul Island that was effectively extirpated during the mid-20th century through predation. Raoul Island became predator-free in 2004 and later expeditions have confirmed that ‘winter breeders’ have recolonised the island, while ‘summer’ breeders remain absent. Preliminary genetic evidence based on a small number of known ‘winter’ (n=22) and ‘summer’ (n=6) breeders indicates no shared mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase 1 haplotypes. Should genomic data, which will represent both putatively adaptive and non-adaptive variation, indicate that ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ breeders are genetically distinct, conservation action for ‘summer’ breeders will be warranted - particularly if this is further supported by non-genomic data. To this end, our findings will inform a larger interdisciplinary collaboration investigating the genetic, ecological and behavioural distinctiveness of Kermadec petrels across the Indo-Pacific.