Weka; two subspecies

Discussion about the evolution, relationships, and naming of New Zealand birds
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Neil Fitzgerald
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Weka; two subspecies

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Fri Oct 27, 2017 9:50 am

In the NZ Herald a few days ago is an article about DNA work by Steve Trewick and others on weka, stating they should be just two subspecies; North Island (Gallirallus australis greyi) and South Island (G.a. australis). There must be a paper out there somewhere, but I haven't come across it yet.
Davidthomas
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Re: Weka; two subspecies

Postby Davidthomas » Fri Oct 27, 2017 5:46 pm

Its a rather interesting piece of research really. I work with Steve Pilkington one of the co-authors (who did all the research/analysis) and he said that the southern ones only differ by a single base-pair between all of the traditional sub-species, while there was a 15 base pair difference between NI and SI birds, hence the lumping to two sub-species.

Although i hope they maintain control over the chatham birds as they certainly represent a unique phenotype even if theyre not that genotypically distinct.
Ian Southey
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Re: Weka; two subspecies

Postby Ian Southey » Fri Oct 27, 2017 11:18 pm

Interesting - a consistent difference of one base pair is still a difference and would be sufficient to justify some sort of taxonomic status I would think. I'm sure the differences are recent, probably post glacial as the plumage differences might be climate driven but as far as I know Pied and Variable Oystercatchers are not distinguished by any base pairs at all - do they get lumped?

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Michael Szabo
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Re: Weka; two subspecies

Postby Michael Szabo » Sat Oct 28, 2017 8:08 am

'Birds New Zealand' Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/Birdsnewzealand/
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David Riddell
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Re: Weka; two subspecies

Postby David Riddell » Sat Oct 28, 2017 8:53 am

Ian Southey wrote:Interesting - a consistent difference of one base pair is still a difference and would be sufficient to justify some sort of taxonomic status I would think. I'm sure the differences are recent, probably post glacial as the plumage differences might be climate driven but as far as I know Pied and Variable Oystercatchers are not distinguished by any base pairs at all - do they get lumped?

According to the paper abstract (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28805283), the study analysed "DNA sequences of mitochondrial genes and nuclear β-fibrinogen and five microsatellite loci" - in other words a tiny proportion of the entire weka genome. It's a virtual certainty that if the genomes of all the various weka populations are ever sequenced it will be found that they differ from one another by much more than a single base pair. There are clear differences between some of the South Island weka populations, and if this study of a strictly limited DNA subset has been unable to detect them it doesn't mean they're any less real.

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