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Assessment of hybridisation between the endangered Chatham Island black robin (Petroica traversi) and the Chatham Island tomtit (Petroica macrocephala chathamensis)

Cubrinovska, Ilina, Massaro, Melanie, Hale, Marie L.
Conservation genetics 2016 v.17 no.2 pp. 259-265
alleles, cluster analysis, endangered species, extinction, hybrids, introgression, islands, loci, microsatellite repeats, nests, outbreeding, outbreeding depression, population dynamics, population size, progeny, reproductive performance, sex ratio, songbirds
Hybridisation between an endangered species and a more common species can facilitate population decline and extinction of the endangered species due to wasted reproductive effort, outbreeding depression and/or swamping of alleles due to widespread or complete admixture. The Chatham Island black robin (Petroica traversi) is an endangered songbird species, which was reduced to only five individuals in 1980. Intensive cross-fostering, whereby black robin offspring were placed into nests of the closely related Chatham Island tomtit (Petroica macrocephala chathamensis) to increase reproductive output, contributed to the rapid recovery of the species within 10 years. Several hybridisation events occurred and although those hybrids were successfully eliminated from the population, concerns remained for the possibility of introgression between the two species that may have gone unnoticed. In this study, we genotyped seven microsatellite loci in both species from the two islands where they coexist, to assess the level of hybridisation and the extent of introgression between the two species. The two species shared no alleles at five of the seven loci genotyped, and cluster analysis, AMOVA and admixture analysis of a total of 174 black robins and 78 Chatham Island tomtits showed no evidence of hybridisation or introgression on either of the two islands where they co-exist. As a result, there is no evidence that black robins are currently in any danger of population decline or extinction through hybridisation with tomtits, although small population size and skewed sex ratio, particularly in the smaller of the two populations, may facilitate future hybridisation events.