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Mol Ecol. 1996 Apr;5(2):289-93.

Molecular sexing of the communally breeding pukeko: an important ecological tool.

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Centre for Conservation Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, New Zealand.


A central biological parameter in the study of any animal population is the accurate assignment of sex. Indeed any ecological study of a population requires information on sex composition in relation to such biological factors as behaviour, movement, mortality and birth rate. However, our ability to assign the sex of adults of many avian species is poor and the sexing of young is universally difficult. We report here the successful application of a molecular technique for the assignment of sex in the communally breeding pukeko or purple swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus). W- and Z-linked chromosome fragments in digested genomic DNA of pukeko were detected with the DNA probe pMg1. We consequently show that this species breeds in polyandrous, polygynous and polygynandrous groups. Finally we discuss why recent molecular methods represent important new tools in ecology.

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