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Mol Ecol. 2011 Jan;20(1):29-45. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04923.x. Epub 2010 Nov 12.

High genetic diversity in the remnant island population of hihi and the genetic consequences of re-introduction.

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  • 1Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK.


The maintenance of genetic diversity is thought to be fundamental for the conservation of threatened species. It is therefore important to understand how genetic diversity is affected by the re-introduction of threatened species. We use establishment history and genetic data from the remnant and re-introduced populations of a New Zealand endemic bird, the hihi Notiomystis cincta, to understand genetic diversity loss and quantify the genetic effects of re-introduction. Our data do not support any recent bottleneck events in the remnant population. Furthermore, all genetic diversity measures indicate the remnant hihi population has retained high levels of genetic diversity relative to other New Zealand avifauna with similar histories of decline. Genetic diversity (N(A) , alleles per locus, allelic richness, F(IS) and H(S) ) did not significantly decrease in new hihi populations founded through re-introduction when compared to their source populations, except in the Kapiti Island population (allelic richness and H(S) ) which had very slow post-re-introduction population growth. The N(e) /N(c) ratio in the remnant population was high, but decreased in first-level re-introductions, which together with significant genetic differentiation between populations (F(ST) & Fisher's exact tests) suggest that extant populations are diverging as a result of founder effects and drift. Importantly, simulations of future allele loss predict that the number of alleles lost will be higher in populations with a slow population growth, fewer founding individuals and with nonrandom mating. Interestingly, this species has very high levels of extra-pair paternity which may reduce reproductive variance by allowing social and floater males to reproduce a life history trait that together with a large remnant population size may help maintain higher levels of genetic diversity than expected.

© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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