The Hawaiian Duck appears to be of hybrid origin

13 Jul 2015 - 11:01 -- Eduardo de Juana

Genetic data, in particular the existing phylogenetic discord between mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA, suggest that the currently endangered Hawaiian Duck (Anas wyvilliana) is descended from a hybridization event between the Mallard (A. platyrhynchos) and Laysan Duck (A. laysanensis) that occurred around the Pleistocene–Holocene boundary#R. This is further supported by circumstantial evidence from the Hawaiian subfossil record.

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Hawaiian Duck (Anas wyvilliana)

Taxonomy:

Anas wyvilliana

P. L. Sclater, 1878, Hawaiian Islands.

Hitherto included within A. platyrhynchos. Genetic data suggest that it is descended from a hybridization event between A. platyrhynchos...

Descriptive notes: 44–51 cm; 568–628 g. Small, dark brown dabbling duck with orange legs and narrow whitish eyering. Males of two types, both with greenish-olive bill and dark mark on culmen: ‘brighter’ males with notable green speckling on crown and nape...
figure, drawing, illustration of Hawaiian Duck (Anas wyvilliana)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Taxonomy:

Anas platyrhynchos

Linnaeus, 1758, Europe.

Sometimes considered to include some or all of A. laysanensis, A. rubripes, A. fulvigula and A. wyvilliana. Probable...

Descriptive notes: Male 55–70 cm, female 50–60 cm; male 870–1800 g, female 735–1320 g; wingspan 75–100 cm (nominate). Large, heavy-looking, dabbling duck; eclipse plumages (both sexes) can be mistaken for other ducks,...
figure, drawing, illustration of Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Laysan Duck (Anas laysanensis)

Taxonomy:

Anas laysanensis

Rothschild, 1892, Laysan Island.

Hitherto normally included within A. platyrhynchos. Probable unstable hybrids of A. superciliosa and present species, A. platyrhynchos...

Descriptive notes: 38–43 cm, 348–548 g. Easily identified as it is the only resident duck on Laysan; very small and dark-headed, with some adult males showing slight iridescence, white eyering, and adults with variable white plumage on head...
figure, drawing, illustration of Laysan Duck (Anas laysanensis)