Birds of a feather don't always flock together, in fact, they have may have barely mixed with each other for hundreds of years, research by New Zealand scientists has found.

Populations of migrating seabirds were genetically distinct and had been for centuries, despite the birds covering thousands of kilometres across the Pacific Ocean each year, researchers at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and the University of Auckland found.

The study revealed the populations were not interbreeding despite the fact they could easily visit each others' colonies during breeding seasons, said the statement. The research was published by the journal, Nature Communications

“What we found is that migrating to different locations contributes to genetic differences between seabird populations as it impacts populations breeding timetables,”said Dr Matt Rayner, a NIWA scientist. The scientists looked at DNA from tissue samples of old Cook's petrel skins, collected from the North Pacific and South Pacific destinations of the tracked birds more than 100 years ago, housed in U.S. museums. They found that the DNA from the old skins matched perfectly the DNA of the modern populations, confirming the populations had been migrating and adapting to the different locations for a long time.

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