DNA barcoding the birds of New Zealand : a thesis presented in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Molecular BioSciences at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

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Massey University
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A comprehensive inventory of the life forms on earth is at the heart of any scientific study of evolution and biodiversity. The international "Barcode of Life" project is an attempt to identify the earth's biodiversity, at the species level, using short signature DNA sequences. The hypothesis underlying DNA barcoding is being comprehensively tested in different taxa. A database was constructed of DNA sequences from part of the mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 for the avian fauna of New Zealand. To date, 833 sequences from 215 species have been added to this database, of which 628 sequences from 126 species are from native or endemic birds. This represents an average of 5 samples per species (minimum 1, maximum 18) for the latter group, which is the central focus of this thesis. Samples of species, from different geographical locations throughout New Zealand, have been collected to highlight any intraspecific nucleotide variation that may occur. Some samples analysed here were from historical specimens housed in museum collections and required specialised DNA extraction and amplification. These techniques were developed as part of the project and provide a means of collecting DNA barcodes where no modern material is available. In general, DNA barcoding proved effective at identifying avian species in New Zealand. However, some species were highlighted that contained distinct DNA barcode clusters, indicative of possible subspecies or cryptic species while in other cases two or more species that appear to be different share very similar DNA barcodes. Remains from aircraft birdstrikes were identified using this technique in order to inform wildlife management at airports around New Zealand. A review of and outlook for the uses of this technique are given.
DNA analysis, Barcode of Life project, Mitochondrial DNA, Avian species identification