The Auckland Islands are often described as a hot spot of biodiversity. A wide variety of seabirds, invertebrates, marine mammals and a range of hardy plants can all be found there.
With all this diversity, there are numerous examples of plants and animals that can be used to demonstrate evolutionary processes relevant to Level 2 and 3 NCEA Biology. One such example is speciation in subantarctic snipe. The Auckland Island snipe is endemic to the Auckland Islands, while other subantarctic islands have their own endemic forms of these birds.
Despite the isolated location of these islands, humans have had an impact on both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. Direct exploitation almost led to the extinction of southern right whales and genetic studies provide data to demonstrate a classic example of population bottleneck and how limited gene flow influences the recovery of genetic variation.
The introduction of exotic mammals by humans on to the islands also provides a context for learning. Pigs (and other mammals) were released as a food source for ship-wrecked sailors and have since decimated native plant and animal populations, particularly ground-nesting sea birds. Interestingly this isolated population of pigs appears to have evolved since their release 150-200 years ago. The pigs have also remained pathogen-free making them ideal candidates for ground breaking medical research into xenotransplantation.