A genetic analysis of the little spotted kiwi has confirmed that all modern members of the species (numbering more than 1,500) likely originate from struggling handful of Kiwi rescued to Kapiti Island over 100 years ago.
The study also found that attempts to increase genetic diversity by breeding Kapiti little spotted kiwi with the last survivors of a separate D’urville Island population failed; no genes from D’Urville Island kiwi could be found in current populations.
Despite a relatively large population, the low genetic diversity of the Kapiti descendants makes the species vulnerable to disease and environmental stresses.
The research, led by Victoria University Wellington researchers, was published this week in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Coverage of the research includes:
Stuff.co.nz: Genetic weakness threatens rare kiwi
Scientific American: New Zealand’s Little Spotted Kiwi Birds are in More Trouble than We Thought
Science NOW: Rising Numbers May Not Be Enough to Save Tigers and Kiwis
Earth Times: Kiwi Conservation Genetics
TVNZ News: Modern birds saved by rescue of a kiwi species