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Little Penguins In New Zealand Are Recent Australian Invaders, Study Reveals

First Posted: Feb 03, 2016 12:39 PM EST

A little penguin species known as 'little blue penguins' which are found in southern New Zealand is actually a recent invader from Australia. In a new study, researchers found that these little penguins, which were recently discovered in southern Otago belongs to an Australian species. Thus researchers wanted to find out when the Aussies first arrived in New Zealand.

"Our results clearly show that the Australian penguin colonized Otago very recently, between 1500 and 1900 AD, apparently following the decline of the native New Zealand little penguin, which was hunted by early human settlers and introduced predators," Dr. Stefanie Grosser, coauthor of the study, said in a news release.

The researchers examined the DNA from bone specimens of over one hundred little penguins, which date back to pre-human times. The researchers claimed that previous studies indicated that Australian species had been present in New Zealand for hundreds of thousands of years. But the new genetic findings revealed that the species arrived recently.

"Many of New Zealand's animal species, birds in particular, have suffered at the hands of people. The really exciting thing about these findings is that they show how quickly nature can respond to human impacts," said Jon Waters, coauthor of the study.

The findings of this study were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

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