Conservation Genetics

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 71–84 | Cite as

Spatial genetic architecture of the critically-endangered Maui Parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys): management considerations for reintroduction strategies

  • Hanna L. Mounce
  • Claire Raisin
  • David L. Leonard
  • Hannah Wickenden
  • Kirsty J. Swinnerton
  • Jim J. Groombridge
Research Article


Conservation translocations are an important tool to circumvent extinctions on oceanic islands. A thorough understanding of all components of a species’ biology, including genetic diversity and structure, can maximize their likelihood of success. The Maui Parrotbill (Pseudonestor xanthophrys) is an endangered Hawaiian honeycreeper endemic to the island of Maui. With a population of approximately 500 individuals restricted to 50 km2 of habitat, this species is at high risk of extinction. Using nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, this study quantified the levels of genetic diversity and structure in wild and captive parrotbill populations, and compared these genetic patterns to those observed within levels of contemporary and historical nuclear diversity derived from 100-year old museum samples. Substantial differences in the effective population sizes estimated between contemporary and historical parrotbill populations highlight the impact that introduced disease had on this species just before the turn of the century. Contemporary parrotbill diversity was low (global F st  = 0.056), and there has been a 96 % reduction in genetic effective population size between contemporary and historical samples. This should not eliminate a conservation translocation (or reintroduction) as a viable recovery option. Measures of population differentiation (pairwise F st and R st ) between different sections of the current population on either side of the Koolau Gap suggest that current genetic structure may be the result of this topographic barrier to gene flow. These data can enable the design of a conservation translocation strategy that is tailored to the patterns of genetic structure across the species’ range.


Ancestral DNA Control region Genetic structure Maui Parrotbill Microsatellites Reintroduction 



Funding from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife helped to make this work possible. We thank San Diego Zoo Global for their assistance and permissions in sampling the captive Maui Parrotbill flock as well as National Museum of National History (Smithsonian, D.C., USA), Museum of Comparative Zoology (Cambridge, UK), Cambridge University Museum of Zoology (Cambridge, UK), British Museum of Natural History (London, UK), Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum (Honolulu, USA), and American Museum of Natural History (New York, USA) for access to the museum specimens for sampling. We thank Samit Kundu for laboratory assistance and guidance, Kelly Iknayan, Christopher Warren and Ruby Hammond for assistance with GIS analyses, and Siobhan Simpson and Rachel Bristol for assistance in microsatellite analyses. We also thank Carl Jones for connecting this team of researchers with one another, as well as Eben Paxton, David Duffy, and John Vetter for initial reviews of this manuscript. Lastly, we thank the Maui Forest Recovery Project field teams for their arduous work in collecting blood and feather samples and The Nature Conservancy Hawaii and State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife for access to public and private lands to collect such samples.

Supplementary material

10592_2014_641_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 15 kb)
10592_2014_641_MOESM2_ESM.gif (20 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (GIF 20 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanna L. Mounce
    • 1
    • 2
  • Claire Raisin
    • 1
    • 3
  • David L. Leonard
    • 4
    • 5
  • Hannah Wickenden
    • 6
  • Kirsty J. Swinnerton
    • 7
  • Jim J. Groombridge
    • 1
  1. 1.Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and ConservationUniversity of KentCanterburyUK
  2. 2.Maui Forest Bird Recovery ProjectMakawaoUSA
  3. 3.Size of WalesCardiffUK
  4. 4.Pacific Cooperative Studies UnitDivision of Forestry and WildlifeHonoluluUSA
  5. 5.U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServicePortlandUSA
  6. 6.Department of Biological and Medical SciencesOxford Brookes UniversityOxfordUK
  7. 7.Island ConservationSanta CruzUSA

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