Newly-published research from New Zealand researchers has found a Marlborough kiwi population thought to be thriving is actually threatened by the ‘silent effects’ of inbreeding.
Dr Helen Taylor’s PhD research took her to Long Island, which has a little spotted kiwi population founded with two birds in the 1980s. While the population appeared to be thriving, an analysis found that nearly two-thirds of the 50-bird population were direct offspring of the founding pair.
When compared to the population in Wellington’s Zealandia, which was founded with 40 individuals, Dr Taylor found poor hatching success on Long Island. She wrote in a blog post on the research that population growth on the island was reliant on the original pair continuing to mate, but that would likely stall once they were no longer able to produce chicks.
The research, conducted while Dr Taylor was at Victoria University of Wellington, highlighted the need to base indicators of population health on more than simply population growth, she said.
The research was covered by local media, including:
Stuff.co.nz: Kiwi colony ‘seriously threatened’ by severe inbreeding
Newshub: Inbreeding little spotted kiwis pose genetic problems
Otago Daily Times: Inbreeding threatens once thriving kiwi population