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Hybridisation in kiwi (Apteryx; Apterygidae) requires taxonomic revision for the Great Spotted Kiwi

  • Shepherd, Lara D.1
  • Tennyson, Alan J. D.1
  • Robertson, Hugh A.2
  • Colbourne, Rogan M.2
  • Ramstad, Kristina M.3
  • 1 Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand , Wellington (New Zealand)
  • 2 Biodiversity Group Department of Conservation, Wellington, 6011, New Zealand , Wellington (New Zealand)
  • 3 University of South Carolina Aiken, 471 University Parkway, Aiken, SC, 29801, USA , Aiken (United States)
Published Article
Avian Research
BioMed Central
Publication Date
May 21, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s40657-021-00257-6
Springer Nature


BackgroundKiwi (Apteryx spp.) are flightless ratites from New Zealand whose numbers and distributions have declined following human arrival. Some of the kiwi species are known to hybridise but the extent of hybridization is unknown.MethodsWe reviewed hybridisation in kiwi (Apteryx spp.) and present new genetic data examining the extent of hybridisation between Rowi (A. rowi) and Little Spotted Kiwi (A. owenii) at Okarito, the location of the only remaining natural population of the threatened Rowi. We also genetically examined the syntype specimens of A. haastii Potts, 1872, collected from near Okarito in the 1870s, which have unusual morphologies.ResultsWe found evidence of recurrent hybridisation between Rowi and Little Spotted Kiwi over the last 150 years, including one F1 hybrid found in the last 15 years, despite Little Spotted Kiwi’s likely extinction on the mainland in the 1970s. However, we found little evidence of introgression of Little Spotted Kiwi alleles into the extant Rowi population. The syntype specimens of A. haastii were also found to be hybrids between Little Spotted Kiwi and Rowi.ConclusionsOur genetic analyses indicate that, although we detected multiple instances of hybridisation between Rowi and Little Spotted Kiwi, it does not appear to be an ongoing threat to Rowi. Because the syntype specimens of A. haastii are hybrids and therefore not representative of the prevailing usage of the name for the Great Spotted Kiwi (A. haastii), we resurrect the nomen oblitum A. maxima Sclater and Hochstetter, 1861 for the large spotted kiwi species.

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