Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2011 Aug 9. [Epub ahead of print]
When rediscovery is not enough: Taxonomic uncertainty hinders conservation of a critically endangered bird.

Robertson BC, Stephenson BM, Goldstien SJ.

Department of Zoology, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand; School of Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, PB 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand.


In 2003, birds similar to the extinct New Zealand storm-petrel Oceanites maorianus were observed in Hauraki Gulf NZ, raising the possibility of rediscovery after 150years. O. maorianus has and continues to be surrounded by taxonomic uncertainty, being variously described as a distinct genus, a distinct species, or merely a plumage variant. This uncertainty has hindered conservation planning and funding for the species. Here we examine the taxonomic identity of the rediscovered birds and museum specimens using phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial (1143bp cytochrome b) and nuclear (890bp β-fibrinogen) genes. Using cytochrome b sequence amplified from the 150+ year old specimens, we found that the extant and museum O. maorianus were the same taxon (0.01 genetic distance), with both differing from all other storm-petrel taxa. Using both genes, we examined the phylogenetic affinities of O. maorianus to the Oceanitinae and Hydrobatinae storm-petrels finding that O. maorianus was more closely aligned to Fregetta (0.08-0.09) than Oceanites (0.11-0.12), thereby confirming its status as a distinct taxon, not a plumage variant of O. oceanicus. Our analysis verifies that the previously presumed extinct New Zealand storm-petrel has been rediscovered and can now be assigned a conservation priority commensurate with its critically endangered status.
Copyright 2011. Published by Elsevier Inc.