Lasting the distance: the survival of alien birds shipped to New Zealand in the 19th century.
Invasive alien species are a major threat to biodiversity and human activities, providing a strong incentive to understand the processes by which alien invasion occurs. While it is important to understand the determinants of success at each of several invasion stages-transport, introduction, establishment, and spread-few studies have explored the first of these stages. Here, we quantify and analyze variation in the success of individual animals in surviving the transport stage, based on shipping records of European passerines destined for New Zealand. We mined the original documents of Acclimatisation Societies, established in New Zealand for the purpose of introducing supposedly beneficial alien species, in combination with recently digitized newspaper archives, to produce a unique dataset of 122 ships that carried passerines from Europe to New Zealand between 1850 and 1885. For 37 of these shipments, data on the survival of individual species were available. Using generalized linear mixed models, we explored how survival was related to characteristics of the shipments and the species. We show that species differed greatly in their survival, but none of the tested traits accounted for these differences. Yet, survival increased over time, which mirrors the switch from early haphazard shipments to larger organized shipments. Our results imply that it was the quality of care received by the birds that most affected success at this stage of the invasion process.