Unexpectedly high genetic diversity in a rare and endangered seabird in the Hawaiian Archipelago

Antaky, Carmen
Conklin, Emily
Toonen, Robert
Knapp, Ingrid
Price, Melissa
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Seabirds in the order of Procellariiformes have one of the highest proportions of threatened species of any avian order. Species undergoing recovery may be predicted to have a genetic signature of a bottleneck, low genetic diversity, or higher rates of inbreeding. The Hawaiian Band-rumped Storm Petrel (‘Akē‘akē; Hydrobates castro), a long-lived philopatric seabird, suffered massive population declines resulting in its listing under the Endangered Species Act in 2016 as federally Endangered. We used high-throughput sequencing to assess patterns of genetic diversity and potential for inbreeding in remaining populations in the Hawaiian Islands. We compared a total of 24 individuals, including both historical and modern samples, collected from breeding colonies or downed individuals found on the islands of Kaua‘i, O‘ahu, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawai‘i. Genetic analyses revealed little differentiation between breeding colonies on Kaua‘i and the Big Island colonies. Although small sample sizes limit inferences regarding other island colonies, downed individuals from O‘ahu and Maui did not assign to known breeding colonies, suggesting the existence of an additional distinct breeding population. The maintenance of genetic diversity in future generations is an important consideration for conservation management. This study provides a baseline of population structure for the remaining nesting colonies that could inform potential translocations of the Endangered H. castro.
Band-rumped Storm Petrel, Hydrobates castro, Population genetics, Procellariiformes, Oceanodroma, Hawai‘i, Inbreeding, Endangered species
Antaky et al. 2020. Unexpectedly high genetic diversity in a rare and endangered seabird in the Hawaiian Archipelago. PeerJ 8:e8463 DOI 10.7717/peerj.8463.
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