Posts written by Lara Shepherd

DNA finds kiwi’s origins: Introducing Stewie

Articulated kiwi skeleton from Te Papa's collection. Photo by Lara Shepherd.

A number of biological specimens in Te Papa’s collection, particularly old specimens, lack information about when and where they were collected. This information may have been lost since the specimen was collected or was simply not recorded at the time. However, all is not lost! Sometimes we can use DNA to determine where a specimen… Read more »

When did little spotted kiwi become extinct on the New Zealand mainland?

Map of the locations where three post-1940 little spotted kiwi were found (names in black type). Today’s little spotted kiwi all derive from birds that survived on Kapiti Island (red type). Base map supplied by Geographx (http://www.geographx.co.nz/).

Little spotted kiwi  only occur in New Zealand, where there are around 1500 individuals remaining.  They are the smallest kiwi species, about the size of a bantam hen, and are very susceptible to predation by introduced mammals, such as stoats and dogs.  Today they survive on predator-free offshore islands and the fenced mainland sanctuary Zealandia… Read more »

Caring for museum collections in a molecular world

Leon and Lara in the Te Papa's collections. Photo Carlos Lehnebach.Te Papa

Museums are embracing technologies, such as DNA sequencing, to both enhance understanding of their collections and showcase scientific research to the public.  Many museums around the world now have molecular laboratories.  DNA sequencing has many useful applications for museum research; for example, it can be used to distinguish new species, determine the evolutionary relationships between… Read more »