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The past and present of New Zealand’s common myna: insights from genomic analyses

Kamolphat Atsawawaranunt1*, Annabel Whibley1, Anna Santure1

1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland, Building 110, 3 Symonds Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand / Te Kura Mātauranga Koiora, Te Whare Wānanga o Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa

*Student presentation

The common myna (Acridotheres tristis) is an invasive species in many places in the world, including New Zealand, where it is currently found across most of the North Island. Its environmental, economic and health impacts have made the myna one of only three birds on the IUCN 100 Worst Invasive Alien Species list. Historical accounts suggest that myna was introduced to New Zealand from Australia in the 1870s, where it had been introduced from India in the 1860s, but the timing, the number of individuals, the number of introductions, and the source population(s) from both India and Australia are unclear.

We have used genomics to investigate the population structure and history of myna in New Zealand. Our analyses have identified two sub-populations within New Zealand: one on the east of the North Island’s axial mountain range, and one encompassing the rest of the North Island. While the former population has a smaller range, it is more genetically diverse, suggesting that it experienced less of a population bottleneck. We have identified Melbourne as the potential introduction source of mynas to New Zealand, and Maharashtra, India, as the likely origin source of these mynas. We plan to investigate the genome for signals of local adaptations, and hopefully find out why they are so successful in New Zealand. We also plan to conduct similar analyses for the common starling (Sturnus vulgaris).