Jeremy R Corfield
Full Text Available The shift from a diurnal to nocturnal lifestyle in vertebrates is generally associated with either enhanced visual sensitivity or a decreased reliance on vision. Within birds, most studies have focused on differences in the visual system across all birds with respect to nocturnality-diurnality. The critically endangered Kakapo (Strigops habroptilus, a parrot endemic to New Zealand, is an example of a species that has evolved a nocturnal lifestyle in an otherwise diurnal lineage, but nothing is known about its' visual system. Here, we provide a detailed morphological analysis of the orbits, brain, eye, and retina of the Kakapo and comparisons with other birds. Morphometric analyses revealed that the Kakapo's orbits are significantly more convergent than other parrots, suggesting an increased binocular overlap in the visual field. The Kakapo exhibits an eye shape that is consistent with other nocturnal birds, including owls and nightjars, but is also within the range of the diurnal parrots. With respect to the brain, the Kakapo has a significantly smaller optic nerve and tectofugal visual pathway. Specifically, the optic tectum, nucleus rotundus and entopallium were significantly reduced in relative size compared to other parrots. There was no apparent reduction to the thalamofugal visual pathway. Finally, the retinal morphology of the Kakapo is similar to that of both diurnal and nocturnal birds, suggesting a retina that is specialised for a crepuscular niche. Overall, this suggests that the Kakapo has enhanced light sensitivity, poor visual acuity and a larger binocular field than other parrots. We conclude that the Kakapo possesses a visual system unlike that of either strictly nocturnal or diurnal birds and therefore does not adhere to the traditional view of the evolution of nocturnality in birds.
Waite, David W; Deines, Peter; Taylor, Michael W
The endemic New Zealand kakapo is classified as 'critically endangered' and, in an effort to prevent extinction and restore the kakapo population, intensive handling of rare kakapo chicks is often utilised to reduce mortality and improve health outcomes among juveniles. Due to concerns that hand-reared chicks may not receive a full bacterial complement in their gut in the absence of regurgitated food from their mother, conservation workers feed a suspension of frozen adult faeces to captive chicks. However, the efficacy of this practice is unknown, with no information about the viability of these bacteria, or whether certain bacterial taxa are selected for or against as a consequence of freezing. In this study we experimentally determined the effects of freezing and reanimation on bacterial cell viability and diversity, using a faecal sample obtained from a healthy adult kakapo. Freezing reduced the number of viable bacterial cells (estimated by colony-forming units, CFU) by 99.86%, although addition of a cryoprotectant prior to freezing resulted in recovery of bacterial cells equivalent to that of non-frozen controls. Bacterial taxonomic diversity was reduced by freezing, irrespective of the presence of a cryoprotectant. While this study did not address the efficacy of faecal supplementation per se, the obtained data do suggest that faecal bacteriotherapy using frozen faeces (with a cryoprotectant) from healthy adult birds warrants further consideration as a conservation strategy for intensively managed species. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Chatterton, J; Pas, A; Alexander, S; Leech, M; Jakob-Hoff, R; Jensen, B P; Digby, A
AIMS This preliminary study had the objectives of describing the concentrations of ionised calcium and 25-hydroxycholecalciferol (25(OH)D 3 ) in the blood of wild kākāpō (Strigops habroptilus) living on two islands in New Zealand, and to determine the effects of supplementary feeding on these blood parameters. METHODS Blood samples were obtained from 33 kākāpō living on two offshore islands during routine health checks in 2015. Birds on Hauturu were sampled in May (n=5) and birds on Whenua Hou were sampled in July (n=15) and November (n=26). Of the birds sampled on Whenua Hou in November, 15 received supplementary food prior to sampling. Samples were analysed for pH, and concentrations of ionised calcium, total calcium, phosphorous, total protein, albumin, globulin, uric acid and 25(OH)D 3 . RESULTS Concentrations of ionised calcium did not differ between unsupplemented birds on the two islands, nor between supplemented (median 1.17 (95% CI=1.12-1.20) mmol/L) and unsupplemented (median 1.09 (95% CI=1.08-1.14) mmol/L) birds sampled in November on Whenua Hou (p>0.05), and were comparable with published normal ranges for other psittacines. Concentrations of 25(OH)D 3 did not differ between unsupplemented birds on the two islands (p>0.05), but were higher in supplemented (median 8.00 (95% CI=4.76-8.45) nmol/L) than unsupplemented (median 0.00 (95% CI=-0.16-0.48) nmol/L) birds on Whenua Hou (p0.05). CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE The calcium status of the kākāpō in this study was comparable to other wild psittacines, however concentrations of 25(OH)D 3 were much lower. The concentrations of 25(OH)D 3 may be within the normal range for the species, however further data are required to confirm this. The significant increase in concentrations of 25(OH)D 3 in supplementary fed birds suggests that this food was providing more of the nutrient than the wild diet at that time of year, although the effects of this are unknown. Further investigation is required into
von Hurst, P R; Moorhouse, R J; Raubenheimer, D
The Kakapo, a large NZ native parrot, is under severe threat of extinction. Kakapo breed only in years when the local podocarps, including rimu (Dacrydium cupressinum), are fruiting heavily, and the fruit are the preferred food both in the diet of breeding females and for provisioning chicks. Attempts to provide a supplementary food during years of poor fruit supply have failed to encourage breeding. Nutrient analysis of rimu berries reveals high calcium content (8.4mg/g dry matter) which would be essential for both egg shell production and the growing skeleton of the chick. Vitamin D is also critical for these processes and for the maintenance of calcium homeostasis, but the source of vitamin D for these nocturnal, ground-dwelling vegetarians is unknown. To examine the vitamin D status of adult Kakapo, and to investigate the possibility that rimu berries provide vitamin D as well as calcium, thus differentiating them from the supplementary foods provided to date. Previously collected and frozen serum from 10 adult birds (6 females, 4 males) was assayed for 25(OH)D 3 and D 2 . Two batches of previously frozen rimu berries were analysed for vitamin D 3 and D 2 . Vitamin D status of the 10 adult birds was very low; mean 4.9nmol/l, range 1-14nmol/l 25(OH)D 3 . No 25(OH)D 2 was detected in any of the birds. High levels of D 2 and moderate levels of D 3 were found in the rimu berries. Traditionally it has been considered that the D 3 isoform of this endogenously produced secosteroid is produced only in animals. However, D 3 has been reported in the leaves of plants of the Solanacae family (tomato, potato, capsicum). The avian vitamin D receptor (VDR) is thought to have a much greater affinity for the D 3 form. Therefore if rimu fruit are able to provide breeding Kakapo with D 3 , and are a plentiful source of calcium, they could be the perfect food package for breeding and nesting birds. Of wider importance, this finding challenges conventional understanding that D3
Full Text Available CBRC-MDOM-05-0629 ref|YP_025950.1| NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 [Strigops habroptil...us] gb|AAP47794.1| NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 [Strigops habroptilus] YP_025950.1 0.28 24% ...
Worthy, T.H.; Swabey, E.J.
Late Pleistocene (23,000-10,000 14 C yr BP) and Holocene (10,000 14 C yr - present BP) avifaunas are described from the Henry Lambert and associated passages in Gardners Gut Cave, Waitomo Caves, North Island, New Zealand. Nine radiocarbon dates on bones and three uranium series dates on speleothems support the dating of the sites. These data are augmented by six new dates and reanalysis of the avifaunas from F1c Cave, also in the Waitomo karst. A distinctive Pleistocene avifauna characterised by the moa Euryapterix curtus and Pachyornis mappini and the North Island goose (Cnemiornis gracilis) with common associates including New Zealand coot (Fulica prisca), North Island takahe (Porphyrio mantelli), Finsch's duck (Euryanas finschi), and North Island kokako (Callaeas wilsoni) was present. The presence of kokako, saddleback (Philesturnus rufusater), and robin (Petroica longipes) in the Pleistocene deposits and the absence of grassland taxa such as pipit (Anthus noveaseelandiae) and quail (Coturnix novaezelandiae) indicate that the vegetation about Gardners Gut Cave included tall shrubland and probably lacked much grassland, even over the Last Glacial Maximum. The Holocene at Waitomo was characterised by a moa fauna dominated by Anomalopteryx didiformis, although both Euryapteryx curtus and Pachyornis mappini persisted in small numbers. The frequent occurrence of kakapo (Strigops habroptilus), weka (Gallirallus australis), and brown teal (Anas chlorotis) typifies Holocene avifaunas; Cnemiornis and Fulica are unknown from Holocene deposits in the area. (author). 45 refs., 7 figs., 8 tabs
Lafferty, Kevin D.; Hopkins, Skylar R.
Having split early from Gondwana, Zealandia (now modern New Zealand) escaped discovery until the late 13th century, and therefore remains an important glimpse into a human-free world. Without humans or other land mammals, diverse and peculiar birds evolved in isolation, including several flightless moa species, the giant pouakai eagle (Harpagornis moorei), the kiwi (Apteryx mantelli), and the kakapo parrot (Strigops habroptila). This unique community has fascinated paleoecologists, who have spent almost two centuries devising new ways to glean information from ancient bird remains. In PNAS, Boast et al. (1) apply one recent technological advance, ancient DNA (aDNA) metabarcoding, to confirm previous discoveries and report new details about moa and kakapo diets, parasites, and niches. Their efforts confirm Zealandia was a lot different before humans arrived.
Boast, Alexander P; Weyrich, Laura S; Wood, Jamie R; Metcalf, Jessica L; Knight, Rob; Cooper, Alan
Over the past 50,000 y, biotic extinctions and declines have left a legacy of vacant niches and broken ecological interactions across global terrestrial ecosystems. Reconstructing the natural, unmodified ecosystems that preceded these events relies on high-resolution analyses of paleoecological deposits. Coprolites are a source of uniquely detailed information about trophic interactions and the behaviors, gut parasite communities, and microbiotas of prehistoric animal species. Such insights are critical for understanding the legacy effects of extinctions on ecosystems, and can help guide contemporary conservation and ecosystem restoration efforts. Here we use high-throughput sequencing (HTS) of ancient eukaryotic DNA from coprolites to reconstruct aspects of the biology and ecology of four species of extinct moa and the critically endangered kakapo parrot from New Zealand (NZ). Importantly, we provide evidence that moa and prehistoric kakapo consumed ectomycorrhizal fungi, suggesting these birds played a role in dispersing fungi that are key to NZ's natural forest ecosystems. We also provide the first DNA-based evidence that moa frequently supplemented their broad diets with ferns and mosses. Finally, we also find parasite taxa that provide insight into moa behavior, and present data supporting the hypothesis of coextinction between moa and several parasite species. Our study demonstrates that HTS sequencing of coprolites provides a powerful tool for resolving key aspects of ancient ecosystems and may rapidly provide information not obtainable by conventional paleoecological techniques, such as fossil analyses.