The comparative biology of New Zealand oystercatchers
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Oystercatchers comprise a distinctive group of mollusc-eating shorebirds. They form an extremely uniform monogeneric family which has not undergone any major adaptive radiations into a diversity of ecological niches, but rather has dispersed from original centres of distribution to occupy identical niches in new geographical localities. The uniformity of structure and habit displayed within the group has been attributed by Larson (1957) to a high ecobiotic specialisation with centripetal selection involved. Throughout their range, oystercatchers exploit identical ecological niches which require specialised habits for successful utilisation. The specialised feeding habits of oystercatchers are well documented (Murphy, 1925; Dewar, 1940; Larson, 1957; Tinbergen and Norton-Griffiths, 1964; Dare, 1966), and a natural consequence of this specialisation is that it is restrictive to adaptive radiation.