Conservation Genetics

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 531–542 | Cite as

Molecular provenance analysis for shy and white-capped albatrosses killed by fisheries interactions in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa

  • Cathryn L. AbbottEmail author
  • Michael C. Double
  • Rosemary Gales
  • G. Barry Baker
  • Anna Lashko
  • Christopher J. R. Robertson
  • Peter G. Ryan


Shy and white-capped albatrosses, Thalassarche cauta and T. steadi, respectively, are phenotypically similar and are known to suffer fisheries-related bycatch mortality across their foraging range. Assessments of the extent or scale of impact of bycatch mortality on these species have previously been precluded by difficulties identifying bycatch carcasses to species level. In this study, a fast and simple molecular test based on a single nucleotide polymorphism in mtDNA of shy and white-capped albatrosses was used to determine the species composition of fisheries bycatch carcasses recovered from Australian, New Zealand, and South African waters. The only area where bycatch mortality of both species co-occurred was in Tasmanian waters; in all other zones the bycatch was exclusively comprised of white-capped albatrosses. Genotypic provenance assignment tests of shy albatrosses, a species with significant genetic structure between island colonies, correctly assigned 72% to their island of origin. These data are the first to provide insight into the relative vulnerability of shy and white-capped albatrosses to bycatch mortality across their foraging range, and to establish the vast differences in the at-sea distributions of these two species.


assignment test fisheries seabird bycatch molecular species identification shy and white-capped albatrosses 


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We thank the following people and organizations for their essential assistance in this project: Jacinda Amey, Nigel Brothers, Ian Flux, Sheryl Hamilton, Dave Keith, Marcel Kroese, Gus McAllister, Pete McClelland, Peter Milburn, Janice Molloy, New Zealand Department of Conservation, New Zealand Conservation Services Levy Program, David Pemberton, Barrie Rose, Lindsay Smith, Southern Ocean Seabird Studies Association, David Stewart, Tasmania’s Nature Conservation Branch (DPIWE), Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Kath Walker, Barry Watkins, Ian West, and Alan Wiltshire. Thanks to Rod Peakall for very helpful analytical guidance. We also thank Andrew Cockburn, H. Lisle Gibbs, and two anonymous referees for their valuable feedback on the manuscript. Funding was provided by the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage, Winifred Violet Scott Estate, Gould League of NSW, Sigma-XI, Stuart Leslie Bird Research Awards (Birds Australia), and Australian Geographic.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cathryn L. Abbott
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael C. Double
    • 1
  • Rosemary Gales
    • 2
  • G. Barry Baker
    • 3
  • Anna Lashko
    • 1
  • Christopher J. R. Robertson
    • 4
  • Peter G. Ryan
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Botany and ZoologyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Primary IndustriesWater and Environment, Box 44HobartAustralia
  3. 3.Australian Antartic DivisionChannel HighwayHobartAustralia
  4. 4.WellingtonNew␣Zealand
  5. 5.DST/NRF Centre for Excellence at the Percy Fitzpatrick InstituteUniversity of Cape TownRondeboschSouth Africa

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