For the last 150 years, the New Zealand storm petrel bird was thought to be extinct. Recent DNA evidence, however, has proven common knowledge wrong: the bird still flies.
In 2003, birdwatchers Ian Saville and Brent Stephenson observed a bird that looked different from the common storm petrel they were so used to seeing. This aroused the birdwatching community, and since then, there have been several other sightings. Before long, some began to speculate that this strange bird was in fact the New Zealand storm petrel, an animal long considered extinct.
Researchers took to DNA testing for confirmation. The University of Otago’s Bruce Robertson extracted DNA samples from tissue fragments of New Zealand storm petrels preserved in three museums in England and France. He then compared these with samples from birds suspected to be New Zealand storm petrels that have been caught in recent years. The results matched up and speculation was proven true: the bird is not, and has never been, extinct.
The bird was once commonly referred to as the “Jesus bird,” because of its habit of slapping the water it swims over with its feet. Already known for “walking” on water, now the New Zealand storm petrel has another trait in common with the famed religious figure: its ability to rise from the dead. And without DNA testing, its rebirth could never have been official.
What are your thoughts on the New Zealand storm petrel? Do you expect to see more “extinct” animals return in the future? Leave your comments below. And for all your DNA news, make sure to visit the GTL DNA testing blog.