As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

DNA research provides new hope for a bird on the brink

May 26, 2017 
In a fresh bid to save the southern black-throated finch from extinction, researchers are turning to a novel analysis of DNA to help plot a path to survival. Already extinct in NSW, this woodland species is endangered in Queensland, having lost 80 per cent of its range in the last 30 years. Under current development plans for its last stronghold, the Galilee basin, it's predicted to lose a further 57 per cent of its remaining habitat.

Under the cutting edge new plan, researchers will compare the DNA of living wild birds to the DNA of 100-year-old museum specimens that lived before the species' decline.

"Genomics is a powerful new tool in the conservationist's arsenal. Near extinction leaves its mark on a species' DNA, and by decoding this DNA signal, we can glean vital clues about the extent and nature of the black-throated finch's demise", explains scientist and team leader Dr Kerensa McElroy from the Australian National University.

"This will tell us whether the remaining birds have enough of this species' original genetic repertoire to survive and thrive if habitat is restored," says Dr McElroy.

"Changes in specific genes could also reveal previously unknown threats, such as pesticides. Our results will be crucial to the design of future captive breeding programs."

Dr McElroy's enterprising team is turning to crowdfunding to kick-start this high-tech research. With a target of $100,000, this is the largest Australian environmental crowdfunding campaign yet.

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