Conservation Genetics

, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 1431–1440 | Cite as

Phylogeography of the New Zealand blue duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos): implications for translocation and species recovery

  • Bruce C. Robertson
  • Tammy E. Steeves
  • Katherine P. McBride
  • Sharyn J. Goldstien
  • Murray Williams
  • Neil J. Gemmell
Research Article


Translocation of individuals among extant populations is an important tool in species conservation that allows managers to supplement dwindling populations and potentially alleviate the deleterious effects of inbreeding. Ideal translocation strategy should consider historical relationships among existing populations to avoid potential disruption of population subdivision and local adaptation. Here, we examine mitochondrial sequence variation in the endangered blue duck Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos, a New Zealand endemic riverine specialist, to facilitate informed decision making in future translocations. Behavioural observations suggest that blue duck dispersal is limited and may result in genetic structure within and between regional populations. We analysed 894 base pairs of mitochondrial control region in 78 adult blue ducks sampled from 11 river catchments across the species’ range (representing four regions in the North Island and three regions in the South Island) and found strong and significant genetic structure both within and among islands. These results, combined with a 2.0% sequence divergence between islands, indicates that North Island and South Island blue ducks should be treated as separate management units. The relationship between genetic differentiation and geographic distance for blue ducks on the South Island conformed to an “isolation by distance” pattern. Overall, we recommend that translocations of blue ducks should not be made between the North and the South Islands and those within each island should be restricted to neighbouring catchments.


Blue ducks Phylogeography Conservation Mitochondrial control region Translocation Species management 



We thank New Zealand Department of Conservation staff for collecting the blood/feather samples used in this analysis and for providing details about the intentions of the Department’s blue duck recovery programme. We thank Felicity Jones for assistance with data analysis; Fiona Robertson for assistance with manuscript preparation; and two anonymous referees for helpful comments. This research was financially supported by the New Zealand Department of Conservation (Investigation No. 3599) and University of Canterbury funding to BR and NG.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce C. Robertson
    • 1
  • Tammy E. Steeves
    • 1
  • Katherine P. McBride
    • 1
  • Sharyn J. Goldstien
    • 1
  • Murray Williams
    • 2
    • 3
  • Neil J. Gemmell
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of ConservationWellingtonNew Zealand
  3. 3.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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