Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA Structuring Between Colonies of the World’s Smallest Penguin (Eudyptula minor) in New South Wales, Australia

Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2013

Department 1

Center for Global Education


The Little Penguin, Eudyptula minor, is a flightless seabird that is endemic to Australia and New Zealand. It can be found nesting on both on and offshore colonies along the coasts of both countries and it is the only penguin currently found breeding on mainland Australia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists E. minor as “Least Concerned,” but numbers have noticeably dropped in recorded history due to a number of direct and indirect anthropogenic influences. One particular location of decline is Manly, New South Wales that contains the last onshore breeding colony of E. minor in NSW, Australia. In order to determine the most appropriate management strategy for the Manly colony as well as other New South Wales colonies, the mitochondrial genetic structuring was evaluated for the nine colonies that E. minor is known to breed on in New South Wales.

Statistically significant phylogenetic structuring was not observed in this study, but due to the low sample size these results cannot be definitively stated. There was evidence of genotypic similarities all along the coast of New South Wales, including the northernmost colony of Broughton Island and the southernmost colony of Montague Island. Theories surrounding the genetic homogeneity among the majority of the colonies include past or present gene flow or a recent founders event. The data analyzed in this study points towards the need to focus conservation efforts on all colonies in New South Wales and not just the Manly colony. By maintaining the health of offshore colonies, particularly those in close proximity to Manly, the chances of rebuilding the Manly population will increase.


This paper was written during the author's study abroad experience as part of the SIT Graduate Institute - Study Abroad Program. It is part of the Independent Study Project Collection.

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Original version is available from SIT Graduate Institute - Study Abroad Program at: