Biol. Lett. 15 (9) 20190491 [2019-09-27; online 2019-09-04]
Human intervention, pre-human climate change (or a combination of both), as well as genetic effects, contribute to species extinctions. While many species from oceanic islands have gone extinct due to direct human impacts, the effects of pre-human climate change and human settlement on the genomic diversity of insular species and the role that loss of genomic diversity played in their extinctions remains largely unexplored. To address this question, we sequenced whole genomes of two extinct New Zealand passerines, the huia (Heteralocha acutirostris) and South Island kōkako (Callaeas cinereus). Both species showed similar demographic trajectories throughout the Pleistocene. However, the South Island kōkako continued to decline after the last glaciation, while the huia experienced some recovery. Moreover, there was no indication of inbreeding resulting from recent mating among closely related individuals in either species. This latter result indicates that population fragmentation associated with forest clearing by Maōri may not have been strong enough to lead to an increase in inbreeding and exposure to genomic erosion. While genomic erosion may not have directly contributed to their extinctions, further habitat fragmentation and the introduction of mammalian predators by Europeans may have been an important driver of extinction in huia and South Island kōkako.