AUGUST 1, 2019
Habitat destruction results in wildlife populations that are small, made up of relatives, and have low genetic variation.
Breeding between relatives (inbreeding) has harmful effects called 'inbreeding depression', often experienced as a shortened life, a poor breeder, or even death.
Not surprisingly then, most animals avoid breeding with their relatives. But when populations become too small, it becomes impossible to find a mate who is not some kind of relation.
Research published today in Current Biology by a collaborative research team led by Monash University reveals just how much damage is done by inbreeding in the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater.
Professor Paul Sunnucks from Monash University's School of Biological Sciences, who led the study said the findings have wide-ranging implications for wildlife management.
"Our study combines over 30 years of demanding fieldwork and advanced genetics to quantify how much harm is done by inbreeding in the last wild population of the Helmeted Honeyeater, and identifies ways forward," Professor Sunnucks said.
The Monash-led study involved collaboration with Zoos Victoria, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), and other conservation partners, with funding from the Australian Research Council. The Helmeted Honeyeater, named for its 'helmet' of head feathers, is a much-loved State emblem found only in a small region of the State of Victoria.