Phoenix Group

Evolutionary Ecology & Genetics

@ Te Taha Tawhiti Massey

pukekostakahenorth island takahe

The modern population of purple swamphens in New Zealand are called pukeko (Porphyrio porphyrio) (left). They probably arrived in New Zealand no more than 300 years ago according to archaeological evidence. The New Zealand flightless endemic takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri) (centre) evolved from a swamphen ancestor, that must have arrived earlier in New Zealand's avian history. A notable difference, apart from their size, is the green/bronze back of takahe, a trait shared with swamphens (Porphyrio p. madagascariensis) in southern Africa. A second species of takahe existed in North Island New Zealand until early European colonisation, but is now extinct. It was taller and probably heavier than its South Island relative. No image of the species exists, but this is its skeleton (right), from a specimen held at Te Kauri, Waitomo, New Zealand.

Many races of purple swamphens exist in a range that extends from South Africa to the Mediterranean, Asia, Indonesia, Oceania and Australasia.

Southern Spain©Rafa Benjumea

Saudi Arabia©Jem Babbington

NSW Austrualia©Jennifer Mather


Melbourne, Australia©Malcolm Calvert

Aswan Dam, Egypt©Malcolm Calvert