3 Jan 2016

They're little and blue, but not the same

5:40 pm on 3 January 2016

Researchers have discovered that Australian and New Zealand little blue penguins are two distinct species.

Little Blue Penguin

Little Blue Penguin Photo: 123rf

Scientists had previously believed the populations of the penguin were the same species.

The team from Otago and Tasmania universities used genetic techniques to compare populations from both countries, and were surprised to find they were different.

Lead researcher Stefanie Grosser said the two species of penguin have their own accents.

The recognition of unique penguin species on both sides of the Tasman highlights the importance of managing and conserving them separately, she said.

The team is working to better establish the history of the Otago population using ancient DNA.