Wild kiwi population found to be going blind - but surviving

The country's rarest species of kiwi could be losing its eyesight, say an international group of researchers.

The researchers, including Te Papa's Alan Tennyson, studied the eyes of 160 rowi kiwi living in Ōkarito forest on the South Island's West Coast.

Their paper, published in (the peer-reviewed, open access journal) BMC Biology, found a third of those kiwi were blind in one or both eyes yet the birds were remarkably healthy.

ONN 1 News at 6 promo image
For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

"[Kiwi] possess the smallest eyes relative to body mass of any avian species, have underrepresented visual brain regions, and have the smallest visual fields among birds," wrote lead author Christopher Murphy.

Visually impaired birds would normally struggle to find food or detect predators, he said.

However, the kiwi's more highly-developed senses of smell, touch, and hearing helped it forage for food on the forest floor, Professor Murphy said.

A special sanctuary is now hoping to boost the birds' numbers even more. Source: 1 NEWS

That meant sight was not necessary for its survival - and the birds they found were in good shape.

"It is apparent that kiwi are able to support themselves nutritionally in the complete absence of vision," he said.

The researchers suggested the kiwi were losing their eyesight as an evolutionary response to foraging at night, in the same way that many cave-dwelling creatures such as spiders and fish had lost theirs.

The researchers conceded they were unable to offer any evidence to support that claim.

Similarly, the birds could have been part of an older population, Prof Murphy said and more research was needed into why so many had lost their eyesight.

- By Michael Cropp

Images taken of Okarito brown kiwi eyes in various states of degradation.
Images taken of Okarito brown kiwi eyes in various states of degradation. Source: Bret A. Moore, Joanne R. Paul-Murphy, Alan J. D. Tennyson and Christopher J. Murphy


Topics



Christchurch police investigate cause of two suspicious fires

Police are investigating two small but suspicious fires after a home and building site caught fire in Christchurch late last night and in the early hours of this morning.

The first, at an Addington building site around 11.40pm, was not extensive and did not immediately threaten the public, police said.

The second occurred at a Main North Road address in Kainga at 1.30am the following day.

The fire managed only to burn the vegetation bordering the property, police said.

Police and fire investigators are examining the scenes to determine the cause of the fires.

Police are appealing to anyone who may have seen a Holden Commodore, or a similar-looking vehicle, leaving the Kainga area soon after the fires started.

Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

English and Ardern each get a hero’s welcome from their caucus at first meeting after election

Jacinda Ardern and Bill English both received long rounds of applause as they returned to parliament for their first caucus meeting following the weekend's election.

Mr English thanked his colleagues for the effort they had put in to the campaign, noting the significant hours spent by MPs securing votes.

The Labour Party Leader thanked her colleagues for their efforts during the campaign. Source: 1 NEWS

Ms Ardern was also thankful of her team, saying that "it takes a village to raise a campaign", playing on the traditional idiom.

Negotiations between either party and New Zealand First in order to form a coalition have not yet begun, and both parties' MPs have played it coy when asked whether or not they would be a part of the negotiating team.

Mr Little said he was pleased with how the election has turned out for his party and faced up to the fact that polling improved after he stepped down as leader. Source: 1 NEWS

Former Labour Leader Andrew Little, now number three on the party list, said he was happy with the result and accepted part of Labour's increased numbers were due to him stepping down.

He said he would be staying with Labour throughout the term, joking that he had "no other job offers".

Bill English has walked into National Party caucus room to a raucous standing ovation from fellow MP’s meeting for first time since the election. Source: 1 NEWS

ONN 1 News at 6 promo image
For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS