Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels

New Zealand’s extinct Scarlett’s Shearwater was similar to Fluttering and Hutton’s

Alan Tennyson and Lara Shepherd (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand) have published in the Journal of Ornithology on the phylogenetic relationships of the extinct Scarlett’s Shearwater Puffinus spelaeus, finding it was closely related to New Zealand's extant Fluttering P. gavia and Hutton’s P. huttoni Shearwaters.

Scarletts Shearwater.painting

A depiction of the extinct Scarlett's Shearwater, painting by Paul Martinson (from Tennyson & Martinson 2006)

The paper’s abstract follows:

”The global phylogenetic relationships of the extinct Scarlett’s Shearwater (Puffinus spelaeus) from New Zealand are examined using ancient DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analyses. The cytochrome b sequences obtained confirm the distinctiveness of this taxon. It forms a strongly-supported clade with two other New Zealand species, suggesting a radiation of similar-sized species in this region. Molecular dating suggests Pleistocene divergences within this clade.”

Scarletts Shearwater

Scarlett's Shearwater: holotype, near-complete skeleton, from New Zealand Birds Online

Scarletts Shearwater.cave

A Scarlett's Shearwater skeleton found in a cave, from New Zealand Birds Online


Holdaway, R.N. & Worthy, T.H. 1994. A new fossil species of shearwater Puffinus from the late Quaternary of the South Island, New Zealand, and notes on the biogeography and evolution of the Puffinus gavia superspecies. Emu 94: 201-215.

Michaux, B. 2013. Scarlett’s Shearwater. In Miskelly, C.M. (Ed.).  New Zealand Birds Online.

Tennyson, A. & Martinson, P. 2006. Extinct Birds of New Zealand.  Wellington; Te Papa Press. 140 pp.

Tennyson, A.J.D. & Shepherd, L.D. 2017.  DNA reveals the relationships of the extinct Scarlett’s Shearwater Puffinus spelaeus (Procellariiformes: Procellariidae).  Journal of Ornithology 158:379-384.

John Cooper, ACAP Information Officer, 04 April 2017

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