Kerryn Slack

Doctor of Philosophy, (Genetics)
Study Completed: 2012
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
Avian Phylogeny and & Divergence Times based on Mitogenomic Sequences

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Ms Slack used complete mitochondrial genomes to study the evolutionary relationships of modern birds. Her studies strongly reinforce the idea that the ratites (including moa and kiwi) form the first divergence among birds, and that the second branch consists of land and water fowl (e.g. chickens and ducks etc).) The combination of molecular data with well-supported calibration times from good fossil data (for example, penguin fossils from North Canterbury) allows strong estimates of the divergence times of the major avian groups. This places the main divergences in the Cretaceous, well before the asteroid impact that marks the end of this period. Ms Slack’s work strongly indicates that external factors are not required to ‘drive’ macroevolution, normal evolutionary processes are sufficient.

Distinguished Professor David Penny
Professor Peter Lockhart
Professor U Arnason