Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Dr Kieren Mitchell

Email: kieren.mitchell@otago.ac.nzKierenMitchell

Google Scholar

ResearchGate

Research interests

  • Evolutionary biology
  • Phylogenetics
  • Macroevolution
  • Bioinformatics
  • Genomics
  • Ancient DNA

I use genetic information to investigate the evolutionary processes that resulted in the present-day distribution of biological diversity. As part of this work, I analyse DNA obtained from the bones and teeth of animals that died hundreds or thousands of years ago. These data help to answer a range of questions: How many species are there? How many have become extinct? How did species respond or adapt to past environmental change? How has the abundance and distribution of species changed over long timescales? The answers to these questions provide important context for understanding current biodiversity change.

Research highlights

Want to learn more about genomes from extinct animals? Read this open-access review that I co-authored for Trends in Ecology & Evolution: Examining natural history through the lens of palaeogenomics.

Did you know that dire wolves were real animals? Read more about them in this article I co-authored for The Conversation. Or listen to my interview on this episode of Genetics Unzipped, the Genetics Society podcast.

Current postdoctoral project

Exceptions to the rule: why were females much larger than males among New Zealand’s extinct moa? (Marsden 20-UOO-130)

^ Top of page

Publications

Verry, A. J. F., Mitchell, K. J., & Rawlence, N. J. (2022). Genetic evidence for post-glacial expansion from a southern refugium in the eastern moa (Emeus crassus). Biology Letters, 18, 20220013. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0013

Rawlence, N. J., Salis, A. T., Spencer, H. G., Waters, J. M., Scarsbrook, L., Mitchell, K. J., … Dutoit, L., King, T. M., … Kennedy, M. (2022). Rapid radiation of Southern Ocean shags in response to receding sea ice. Journal of Biogeography. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/jbi.14360

Salis, A. T., Bray, S. C. E., Lee, M. S. Y., Heiniger, H., Barnett, R., Burns, J. A., … Mitchell, K. J. (2021). Lions and brown bears colonized North America in multiple synchronous waves of dispersal across the Bering Land Bridge. Molecular Ecology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/mec.16267

Mitchell, K. J., Bover, P., Salis, A. T., Mudge, C., Heiniger, H., Thompson, M., … Meachen, J. A. (2021). Evidence for Pleistocene gene flow through the ice-free corridor from extinct horses and camels from Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming. Quaternary International. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2021.11.017

Johnston, P., & Mitchell, K. J. (2021). Contrasting patterns of sensory adaptation in living and extinct flightless birds. Diversity, 13, 538. doi: 10.3390/d13110538

Rawlence, N. J., Salis, A. T., Spencer, H. G., Waters, J. M., Scarsbrook, L., Mitchell, K. J., … Dutoit, L., King, T. M., … Kennedy, M. (2022). Rapid radiation of Southern Ocean shags in response to receding sea ice. Journal of Biogeography. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/jbi.14360

Journal - Research Article

Verry, A. J. F., Mitchell, K. J., & Rawlence, N. J. (2022). Genetic evidence for post-glacial expansion from a southern refugium in the eastern moa (Emeus crassus). Biology Letters, 18, 20220013. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0013

Journal - Research Article

De Pietri, V. L., Worthy, T. H., Scofield, R. P., Cole, T. L., Wood, J. R., Mitchell, K. J., … Wragg, G. M. (2021). A new extinct species of Polynesian sandpiper (Charadriiformes: Scolopacidae: Prosobonia) from Henderson Island, Pitcairn Group, and the phylogenetic relationships of Prosobonia. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 192, 1045-1070. doi: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa115

Journal - Research Article

Donnellan, S. C., Catalano, S. R., Pederson, S., Mitchell, K. J., Suhendran, A., Price, L. C., … Richards, S. J. (2021). Revision of the Litoria watjulumensis (Anura: Pelodryadidae) group from the Australian monsoonal tropics, including the resurrection of L. spaldingi. Zootaxa, 4933(2), 211-240. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4933.2.3

Journal - Research Article

Jackson, S. M., Fleming, P. J. S., Eldridge, M. D. B., Ingleby, S., Flannery, T., Johnson, R. N., … Mitchell, K. J., … Helgen, K. M. (2021). The dogma of dingoes: Taxonomic status of the dingo: A reply to Smith et al. Zootaxa, 4564, 198-212. doi: 10.11646/zootaxa.4564.1.7

Journal - Research Article

Johnston, P., & Mitchell, K. J. (2021). Contrasting patterns of sensory adaptation in living and extinct flightless birds. Diversity, 13, 538. doi: 10.3390/d13110538

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J., Bover, P., Salis, A. T., Mudge, C., Heiniger, H., Thompson, M., … Meachen, J. A. (2021). Evidence for Pleistocene gene flow through the ice-free corridor from extinct horses and camels from Natural Trap Cave, Wyoming. Quaternary International. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1016/j.quaint.2021.11.017

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J., Hugall, A. F., Heiniger, H., Joseph, L., & Oliver, P. M. (2021). Disparate origins for endemic bird taxa from the ‘Gondwana Rainforests’ of Central Eastern Australia. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 134, 40-56. doi: 10.1093/biolinnean/blab031

Journal - Research Article

Onley, I. R., Austin, J. J., & Mitchell, K. J. (2021). Sex assignment in a non-model organism in the absence of field records using Diversity Arrays Technology (DArT) data. Conservation Genetics Resources, 13, 255-260. doi: 10.1007/s12686-021-01203-w

Journal - Research Article

Perri, A. R., Mitchell, K. J., Mouton, A., Álvarez-Carretero, S., Hulme-Beaman, A., Haile, J., … Heiniger, H., … Frantz, L. A. F. (2021). Dire wolves were the last of an ancient New World canid lineage. Nature, 591, 87-91. doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-03082-x

Journal - Research Article

Purnomo, G. A., Mitchell, K. J., O'Connor, S., Kealy, S., Taufik, L., Schiller, S., … Tobler, R. (2021). Mitogenomes reveal two major influxes of papuan ancestry across wallacea following the last glacial maximum and austronesian contact. Genes, 12, 965. doi: 10.3390/genes12070965

Journal - Research Article

Sacks, B. N., Mitchell, K. J., Quinn, C. B., Hennelly, L. M., Sinding, M.-H. S., Statham, M. J., … Frantz, L. A. F. (2021). Pleistocene origins, western ghost lineages, and the emerging phylogeographic history of the red wolf and coyote. Molecular Ecology, 30, 4292-4304. doi: 10.1111/mec.16048

Journal - Research Article

Salis, A. T., Bray, S. C. E., Lee, M. S. Y., Heiniger, H., Barnett, R., Burns, J. A., … Mitchell, K. J. (2021). Lions and brown bears colonized North America in multiple synchronous waves of dispersal across the Bering Land Bridge. Molecular Ecology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/mec.16267

Journal - Research Article

Sutton, G. J., Bost, C. A., Kouzani, A. Z., Adams, S. D., Mitchell, K., & Arnould, J. P. Y. (2021). Fine-scale foraging effort and efficiency of Macaroni penguins is influenced by prey type, patch density and temporal dynamics. Marine Biology, 168, 3. doi: 10.1007/s00227-020-03811-w

Journal - Research Article

Torres-Roig, E., Mitchell, K. J., Alcover, J. A., Martínez-Freiría, F., Bailón, S., Heiniger, H., … Bover, P. (2021). Origin, extinction and ancient DNA of a new fossil insular viper: Molecular clues of overseas immigration. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 192, 144-168. doi: 10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa094

Journal - Research Article

Bover, P., Mitchell, K. J., Torres‐Roig, E., Llamas, B., Thomson, V. A., Alcover, J. A., … Pons, J. (2020). Ancient DNA from an extinct Mediterranean micromamma: Hypnomys morpheus (Rodentia: Gliridae): Provides insight into the biogeographic history of insular dormice. Journal of Zoological Systematics & Evolutionary Research, 58, 427-438. doi: 10.1111/jzs.12343

Journal - Research Article

Kealy, S., Donnellan, S. C., Mitchell, K. J., Herrera, M., Aplin, K., O'Connor, S., & Louys, J. (2020). Phylogenetic relationships of the cuscuses (Diprotodontia: Phalangeridae) of island Southeast Asia and Melanesia based on the mitochondrial ND2 gene. Australian Mammalogy, 42, 266-276. doi: 10.1071/am18050

Journal - Research Article

Lombol, A. J., Salis, A. T., Mitchell, K. J., Tennyson, A. J. D., Shepherd, L. D., Worthy, T. H., … Burridge, C. P. (2020). Using ancient DNA to quantify losses of genetic and species diversity in seabirds: A case study of Pterodroma petrels from a Pacific island. Biodiversity & Conservation, 29, 2361-2375. doi: 10.1007/s10531-020-01978-8

Journal - Research Article

Oliver, P. M., Heiniger, H., Hugall, A. F., Joseph, L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2020). Oligocene divergence of frogmouth birds (Podargidae) across Wallace’s Line. Biology Letters, 16, 20200040. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2020.0040

Journal - Research Article

Boast, A. P., Chapman, B., Herrera, M. B., Worthy, T. H., Scofield, R. P., Tennyson, A. J. D., … Mitchell, K. J. (2019). Mitochondrial genomes from new Zealand's extinct adzebills (Aves: Aptornithidae: Aptornis) support a sister-taxon relationship with the Afro-Madagascan Sarothruridae. Diversity. doi: 10.3390/d11020024

Journal - Research Article

Bover, P., Llamas, B., Mitchell, K. J., Thomson, V. A., Alcover, J. A., Lalueza-Fox, C., … Pons, J. (2019). Unraveling the phylogenetic relationships of the extinct bovid Myotragus balearicus Bate 1909 from the Balearic Islands. Quaternary Science Reviews, 215, 185-195. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.05.005

Journal - Research Article

Cole, T. L., Ksepka, D. T., Mitchell, K. J., Tennyson, A. J. D., Thomas, D. B., Pan, H., … Rawlence, N. J., … Waters, J. M. (2019). Mitogenomes uncover extinct penguin taxa and reveal island formation as a key driver of speciation. Molecular Biology & Evolution, 36(4), 784-797. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msz017

Journal - Research Article

Gower, G., Fenderson, L. E., Salis, A. T., Helgen, K. M., van Loenena, A. L., Heiniger, H., … Mitchell, K. J., … Cooper, A. (2019). Widespread male sex bias in mammal fossil and museum collections. PNAS, 116(38), 19019-19024. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1903275116

Journal - Research Article

Kosintsev, P., Mitchell, K. J., Devièse, T., van der Plicht, J., Kuitems, M., Petrova, E., … Lister, A. M. (2019). Evolution and extinction of the giant rhinoceros Elasmotherium sibiricum sheds light on late Quaternary megafaunal extinctions. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3, 31-38. doi: 10.1038/s41559-018-0722-0

Journal - Research Article

Richards, S. M., Hovhannisyan, N., Gilliham, M., Ingram, J., Skadhauge, B., Heiniger, H., … Mitchell, K. J., … Cooper, A. (2019). Low-cost cross-taxon enrichment of mitochondrial DNA using in-house synthesised RNA probes. PLoS ONE, 14(2), e209499. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0209499

Journal - Research Article

Bover, P., Llamas, B., Thomson, V. A., Pons, J., Cooper, A., & Mitchell, K. J. (2018). Molecular resolution to a morphological controversy: The case of North American fossil muskoxen Bootherium and Symbos. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 129, 70-76. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2018.08.008

Journal - Research Article

Bover, P., Mitchell, K. J., Llamas, B., Rofes, J., Thomson, V. A., Cuenca-Bescós, G., … Pons, J. (2018). Molecular phylogenetics supports the origin of an endemic Balearic shrew lineage (Nesiotites) coincident with the Messinian Salinity Crisis. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 125, 188-195. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2018.03.028

Journal - Research Article

Cascini, M., Mitchell, K. J., Cooper, A., & Phillips, M. J. (2018). Reconstructing the evolution of giant extinct kangaroos: Comparing the utility of DNA, morphology, and total evidence. Systematic Biology, 68(3), 520-537. doi: 10.1093/sysbio/syy080

Journal - Research Article

Feigin, C. Y., Newton, A. H., Doronina, L., Schmitz, J., Hipsley, C. A., Mitchell, K. J., … Pask, A. J. (2018). Genome of the Tasmanian tiger provides insights into the evolution and demography of an extinct marsupial carnivore. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 2, 182-192. doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0417-y

Journal - Research Article

Thomson, V. A., Mitchell, K. J., Eberhardt, R., Dortch, J., Austin, J. J., & Cooper, A. (2018). Genetic diversity and drivers of dwarfism in extinct island emu populations. Biology Letters, 14, 20170617. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0617

Journal - Research Article

White, L. C., Mitchell, K. J., & Austin, J. J. (2018). Ancient mitochondrial genomes reveal the demographic history and phylogeography of the extinct, enigmatic thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus). Journal of Biogeography, 45, 1-13. doi: 10.1111/jbi.13101

Journal - Research Article

Perry, T., van Loenen, A. L., Heiniger, H., Lee, C., Gongora, J., Cooper, A., & Mitchell, K. J. (2017). Ancient DNA analysis of the extinct North American flat-headed peccary (Platygonus compressus). Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 112, 258-267. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2017.03.024

Journal - Research Article

Scofield, R. P., Mitchell, K. J., Wood, J. R., De Pietri, V. L., Jarvie, S., Llamas, B., & Cooper, A. (2017). The origin and phylogenetic relationships of the New Zealand ravens. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 106, 136-143. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2016.09.022

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J., Bray, S. C., Bover, P., Soibelzon, L., Schubert, B. W., Prevosti, F., … Cooper, A. (2016). Ancient mitochondrial DNA reveals convergent evolution of giant short-faced bears (Tremarctinae) in North and South America. Biology Letters, 12, 20160062. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0062

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J., Scanferla, A., Soibelzon, E., Bonini, R., Ochoa, J., & Cooper, A. (2016). Ancient DNA from the extinct South American giant glyptodont Doedicurus sp. (Xenarthra: Glyptodontidae) reveals that glyptodonts evolved from Eocene armadillos. Molecular Ecology, 25, 3499-3508. doi: 10.1111/mec.13695

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J., Wood, J. R., Llamas, B., McLenachan, P. A., Kardailsky, O., Scofield, R. P., … Cooper, A. (2016). Ancient mitochondrial genomes clarify the evolutionary history of New Zealand’s enigmatic acanthisittid wrens. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 102, 295-304. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2016.05.038

Journal - Research Article

Soubrier, J., Gower, G., Chen, K., Richards, S. M., Llamas, B., Mitchell, K. J., … Cooper, A. (2016). Early cave art and ancient DNA record the origin of European bison. Nature Communications, 7, 13158. doi: 10.1038/ncomms13158

Journal - Research Article

Wood, J. R., Mitchell, K. J., Scofield, R. P., De Pietri, V. L., Rawlence, N. J., & Cooper, A. (2016). Phylogenetic relationships and terrestrial adaptations of the extinct laughing owl, Sceloglaux albifacies (Aves: Strigidae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/zoj.12483

Journal - Research Article

Llamas, B., Brotherton, P., Mitchell, K. J., Templeton, J. E. L., Thomson, V. A., Metcalf, J. L., … Cooper, A. (2015). Late Pleistocene Australian marsupial DNA clarifies the affinities of extinct megafaunal kangaroos and wallabies. Molecular Biology & Evolution, 32(3), 574-584. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msu338

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J., Llamas, B., Soubrier, J., Rawlence, N. J., Worthy, T. H., Wood, J., … Cooper, A. (2014). Ancient DNA reveals elephant birds and kiwi are sister taxa and clarifies ratite bird evolution. Science, 344(6186), 898-900. doi: 10.1126/science.1251981

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J., Pratt, R. C., Watson, L. N., Gibb, G. C., Llamas, B., Kasper, M., … Cooper, A. (2014). Molecular phylogeny, biogeography, and habitat preference evolution of marsupials. Molecular Biology & Evolution, 31(9), 2322-2330. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msu176

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J., Wood, J. R., Schofield, R. P., Llamas, B., & Cooper, A. (2014). Ancient mitochondrial genome reveals unsuspected taxonomic affinity of the extinct Chatham duck (Pachyanas chathamica) and resolves divergence times for New Zealand and sub-Antarctic brown teals. Molecular Phylogenetics & Evolution, 70, 420-428. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2013.08.017

Journal - Research Article

Wood, J. R., Mitchell, K. J., Schofield, R. P., Tennyson, A. J. D., Fidler, A. E., Wilmshurst, J. M., … Cooper, A. (2014). An extinct nestorid parrot (Aves, Psittaciformes, Nestoridae) from the Chatham Islands, New Zealand. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 172, 185-199. doi: 10.1111/zoj.12164

Journal - Research Article

Mitchell, K. J. (2021). Ancient DNA from the koala lemur puts Madagascar on the paleogenomic map. PNAS, 118(30), e2110218118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2110218118

Journal - Research Other

Mitchell, K. J., & Rawlence, N. J. (2021). Examining natural history through the lens of palaeogenomics. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 36(3), 258-267. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2020.10.005

Journal - Research Other

Cole, T. L., Ksepka, D. T., Mitchell, K. J., Tennyson, A. J. D., Thomas, D. B., Pan, H., … Rawlence, N. J., … Waters, J. M. (2019). Mitogenomes uncover extinct penguin taxa and reveal island formation as a key driver of speciation. Proceedings of the 10th International Penguin Conference (IPC10). (pp. 25). Retrieved from https://www.penguin-conference.com

Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

Wood, J. R., Mitchell, K. J., Gibb, G. C., Rawlence, N. J., Scofield, R. P., Tennyson, A. J. D., … Waters, J. M., … Cooper, A. (2014). Extinct Holocene birds of the Chatham Islands: Ancient DNA provides new taxonomic and phylogenetic insights. In J. S. Crampton & S. F. K. Hills (Eds.), Geoscience Society of New Zealand Miscellaneous Publications. 138, (pp. 29-30). Wellington, New Zealand: GSNZ. [Abstract]

Conference Contribution - Published proceedings: Abstract

More publications...