, Volume 50, Issue 6, pp 558–563 | Cite as

Ancient DNA sequences reveal unsuspected phylogenetic relationships within New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae)

  • A. Cooper
Multi-Author Reviews


Ancient DNA sequences from preserved specimens are increasingly being used for the investigation of Pacific Island ecosystems prior to the large scale modification and extinction of endemic biota associated with human colonization. However, many difficulties are associated with the use of ancient DNA sequences in studies of genetically close taxa. In this paper, these difficulties are discussed as they relate to a study involving extinct and extant members of an ancient New Zealand avian family, the New Zealand wrens (Acanthisittidae).

Sequences of the mitochondrial small ribosomal subunit RNA gene (12S) were obtained from museum specimens of several wren taxa in order to investigate their phylogenetic relationships and the taxonomic status of a rock wren (Xenicus gilviventris) subspecies. Limitations due to sample size and 12S sequence variability as well as the difficulties in authenticating ancient DNA sequences prevent firm conclusions but the data suggest unsuspected phylogenetic relationships exist and raise the possibility that conservation management of rock wren populations is required.

Key words

Acanthisittidae ancient DNA ancient populations avian 12S DNA contamination New Zealand wrens 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Cooper
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

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