Our evolving view of the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) and its allies

Geoff Chambers, Trevor H. Worthy

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper surveys molecular and morphological work on parrots over the last 20 years and we show how it has re-shaped popular and scientific views regarding endemic New Zealand taxa. Recent research has shown the kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is not closely related to apparent counterparts in Australia but in fact is a member of an ancient and exclusively New Zealand clade together with the kea and the kaka (Nestor spp.). Superficially similar Australian nocturnal taxa, the night (Pezoporus occidentalis) and the ground parrot (P. wallicus) are members of an altogether different family. At the same time, the parrots as a worldwide group have more or less retained their sense of Gondwanan ancestry, but with an increased focus on Australasia as a centre of origin. The previous paradigm explaining contemporary parrot diversity that suggested evolution was brought about exclusively by vicariant speciation has been supplanted with a synergistic model of dispersal and vicariance following the demonstration that multiple dispersal events have occurred, for example from Australia across the chain of Indian Ocean Islands to Africa.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)197-200
    Number of pages4
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • Kakapo
    • New Zealand
    • Species origins
    • Strigops habroptilus
    • Vicariant speciation


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