Nav: Home

Vagrant bachelors could save rare bird

June 16, 2015

A study conducted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has revealed the importance of single males in small, threatened populations. Results from a study of endangered New Zealand hihi birds (Notiomystis cincta), published this week in Evolutionary Applications, showed that bachelor males who don't hold breeding territories, known as 'floaters', could help maintain genetic diversity and decrease the likelihood of inbreeding by sneakily fathering chicks.

These underestimated individuals are vital to the long-term survival of small populations, such as in the hihi, a rare bird found only in New Zealand. There are thought to be only 2,000 individuals left in the wild, making them extremely vulnerable to natural disasters or disease, of which a single severe incident could wipe out the whole species.

While floaters have much lower breeding success rates than coupled males, in hihis they are able coerce females, which are already coupled up, into mating. This has been shown to have a small but significant impact on population size by increasing the number of breeding birds, as well as influencing the sex ratio. These factors are important in maintaining genetic diversity and decreasing levels of inbreeding.

Dr Patricia Brekke, researcher at ZSL and the lead author of the study, said: "Conservation management often discounts individuals that are thought to be unable to produce offspring, thinking that they have no effect on populations. We have shown that in hihi, floaters are able to reproduce and pass on their genes from one generation to the next, which helps with long-term survival of this endangered bird.

"Despite being difficult to study, as they have no fixed abode, we should pay more attention to these bachelor males as they can potentially have a big effect on genetic diversity and therefore the survival of species with very few individuals remaining. Not taking floating individuals into account can undermine our conservation efforts."

The hihi is one of the world's most evolutionarily unique birds, classed as the only member of its own family, and were lost from New Zealand's North Island by around 1895 because of introduced predators such as rats, habitat loss due to farming and disease. They are the only bird species in the world to mate face-to-face like humans.

Floating behaviour has been observed in a variety of animals including fish, mammals and insects. Floating can be a successful breeding strategy as bachelor males avoid investing their energy into defending territory and looking after chicks, instead spending time searching for mates. In hihi birds, floaters tend to be either younger males (around a year old) that are inexperienced at holding a territory or older males (over five years) who lack the energy to defend territory. Their 'homelessness' makes them difficult to study as they travel between different areas looking for food and potential mates.

Conservation efforts to save the species began in the 1980s and involves reintroducing birds to different islands and mainland reserves. ZSL has so far been involved in establishing three reintroduced populations, but these are all small (less than 150 birds each) and so hihi remain in a precarious situation.
-end-


Zoological Society of London

Related Genetic Diversity Articles:

Rare genetic disorders: New approach uses RNA in search for genetic triggers
In about half of all patients with rare hereditary disorders, it is still unclear what position of the genome is responsible for their condition.
Major genetic study identifies 12 new genetic variants for ovarian cancer
A genetic trawl through the DNA of almost 100,000 people, including 17,000 patients with the most common type of ovarian cancer, has identified 12 new genetic variants that increase risk of developing the disease and confirmed the association of 18 of the previously published variants.
Use of fetal genetic sequencing increases the detection rate of genetic findings
In a study to be presented Thursday, Jan. 26, in the oral plenary session at 8 a.m.
Diversity without limits
Now, researchers at Temple and Oakland universities have completed a new tree of prokaryotic life calibrated to time, assembled from 11,784 species of bacteria.
Threatened by diversity
Psychologist Brenda Major identifies what may be a key factor in many white Americans' support for Donald Trump.
Genetic diversity crucial to Florida scrub-jay's survival
Legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold once advised: 'To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.' For the endangered Florida scrub-jay, new research shows that saving every last grouping among its small and scattered remnant populations is vital to preserving genetic diversity -- and the long-term survival of the species.
Genetic diversity of enzymes alters metabolic individuality
Scientists from Tohoku University's Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization have published research about genetic diversity and metabolome in Scientific Reports.
Expanded prenatal genetic testing may increase detection of carrier status for potentially serious genetic conditions
In an analysis that included nearly 350,000 adults of diverse racial and ethnic background, expanded carrier screening for up to 94 severe or profound conditions may increase the detection of carrier status for a variety of potentially serious genetic conditions compared with current recommendations from professional societies, according to a study appearing in the Aug.
Fix for 3-billion-year-old genetic error could dramatically improve genetic sequencing
Researchers found a fix for a 3-billion-year-old glitch in one of the major carriers of information needed for life, RNA, which until now produced errors when making copies of genetic information.
Genetic diversity important for plant survival when nitrogen inputs increase
Genetic diversity is important for plant species to persist in Northern forests that experience human nitrogen inputs.

Related Genetic Diversity Reading:

Human Genetic Diversity: Functional Consequences for Health and Disease
by Julian C. Knight (Author)

Genetic Diversity in Bell Pepper
by Vimlesh Kumar (Author), N.K. Pathania (Author), G.C. Yadav (Author)

Volume 1 - Cell Biology and Genetics (Biology: the Unity & Diversity of Life)
by Cecie Starr (Author), Ralph Taggart (Author), Christine Evers (Author)

Volume 1 - Cell Biology and Genetics (Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life)
by Cecie Starr (Author), Ralph Taggart (Author), Christine Evers (Author), Lisa Starr (Author)

From DNA to Diversity: Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design
by Sean B. Carroll (Author), Jennifer K. Grenier (Author), Scott D. Weatherbee (Author)

Crop Genetic Diversity in the Field and on the Farm: Principles and Applications in Research Practices (Yale Agrarian Studies Series)
by Devra I. Jarvis (Author), Toby Hodgkin (Author), Anthony H. D. Brown (Author), John Tuxill (Author), Isabel López Noriega (Author), Melinda Smale (Author), Bhuwon Sthapit (Author), Cristián Samper (Foreword)

Shattering: Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity
by Cary Fowler (Author), Pat Mooney (Author)

Genetics, Diversity and the Biosphere (Biology-on-disc)
by Denson K. McLain (Author)

The Genetic Diversity of Cacao and its Utilization
by B G D Bartley (Author)

Mathematics of Genetic Diversity (CBMS-NSF Regional Conference Series in Applied Mathematics)
by J. F. C. Kingman (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Why We Hate
From bullying to hate crimes, cruelty is all around us. So what makes us hate? And is it learned or innate? This hour, TED speakers explore the causes and consequences of hate — and how we can fight it. Guests include reformed white nationalist Christian Picciolini, CNN commentator Sally Kohn, podcast host Dylan Marron, and writer Anand Giridharadas.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#482 Body Builders
This week we explore how science and technology can help us walk when we've lost our legs, see when we've gone blind, explore unfriendly environments, and maybe even make our bodies better, stronger, and faster than ever before. We speak to Adam Piore, author of the book "The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human", about the increasingly amazing ways bioengineering is being used to reverse engineer, rebuild, and augment human beings. And we speak with Ken Thomas, spacesuit engineer and author of the book "The Journey to Moonwalking: The People That Enabled Footprints on the Moon" about...