Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

Lookalikes not necessarily the same, says NIWA scientist

MEDIA RELEASE

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2017


Lookalikes not necessarily the same, says NIWA scientist

They hide under rocks in lakes, rivers and streams, look decidedly grumpy and only come out at night.

But a NIWA scientist is hoping his research into New Zealand’s native bullies will reveal a lot more about these “attractive hidden gems”.

In collaboration with Waikato Regional Council, Hawkes Bay Regional Council and Canberra University (Australia), Hamilton based freshwater ecologist Dr James Shelley is using advanced genetic testing with the aim of identifying several new species.

Dr Shelley specialises in researching cryptic species, or species that look similar, but are evolutionarily unique. There are currently seven species of New Zealand bullies but Dr Shelley says it is likely there may be several more by the time he completes his research by the middle of next year.

The ability to more easily identify cryptic species has become possible with the development of new generation genetic testing.

“It can be hard to tell species apart because you can only pick up so much with the human eye and people can overlook minute differences” Dr Shelley says.

“But when you look into the genetics of a species you create something similar to a family tree. This enables you to see how closely or how distantly related the two groups are.”

And while two species may look the same, they each have their own place in the ecosystem with quite distinct ecological functions.

Bullies are an ecologically diverse group, some inhabit the tops of catchments; others the lower parts. Some are migratory and travel to sea; others spend their entire lives in freshwater. Ecologist and fish enthusiasts have recognized that some are morphologically diverse as well. For instance, the common bully (Gobiomorphus cotidianus) from lakes tend to be shorter and stockier than their river dwelling relatives. This makes them good candidates for investigation.

Dr Shelley said it was important to know about and describe cryptic species for conservation and management purposes.

"If we don’t know they're there, we can't protect them. But if you can determine what a species is and exactly where it is found, you're able to work to effectively conserve it."

Advanced genetic testing has revolutionised the identification of species in recent years.

“Previously you had to sequence one gene at a time. Now, using next generation technology, you can sequence thousands of genes very quickly at an affordable price. The number of recognised New Zealand species has increased by about 50 per cent since 1990 thanks in large part to genetic based studies.”

Examples include the Dune Lake galaxid and several species of Central Otago galaxids.

Dr Shelley also says it is possible that every New Zealand species could now be examined and the true number of species in New Zealand revealed.

“We are in a great position as a fairly small country. There is no reason you can’t look at every population of every different species and analyse their genetics.

“This is a unique situation where you can get an absolute picture of the diversity here, how it has evolved and where there are hot spots of diversity are that require better protection.”

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Reserve Bank: Ongoing Monetary Tightening
The Monetary Policy Committee today increased the Official Cash Rate (OCR) to 3 percent from 2.5 percent. The Committee agreed it remains appropriate to continue to tighten monetary conditions... More>>



Statistics: Weekly Earnings Rise As More In Full-time Employment

Median weekly earnings from wages and salaries rose by 8.8 percent to $1,189 in the year to the June 2022 quarter, Stats NZ said today... More>>



Bell Gully: Uncertainty Ahead With New Unconscionable Conduct Legislation

new prohibition against ‘unconscionable conduct’ in trade is one of a number of changes to the Fair Trading Act 1986 that come into force from 16 August 2022. The new prohibition may have wide-ranging implications for many businesses... More>>


Electricity Authority: Imposes Interim Restrictions On Very Large Electricity Contracts

Consumers of electricity will be protected from potentially paying more than they should due to the impact of very large electricity contracts on wholesale prices, under urgent changes announced today by the Electricity Authority... More>>


Westpac: Economic Overview, August 2022 – Pushing Through

The New Zealand economy faces some lean growth in the year ahead as households’ budgets are squeezed, according to Westpac’s latest Economic Overview... More>>


Kiwi Group Holdings: Fisher Funds Acquires Kiwi Wealth Business

Kiwi Group Holdings Limited (KGHL) today announced the sale of Kiwi Wealth to Fisher Funds for NZ$310 million... More>>