Not all is rosy for the pink pigeon, examine finds

Not all is rosy for the pink pigeon, study finds
Pink pigeon of Mauritius. Credit: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

The authors of a significant examine on the as soon as critically endangered pink pigeon say boosting the species’ numbers is just not sufficient to reserve it from extinction sooner or later.

Despite the inhabitants improve, the crew’s evaluation reveals the pink pigeon has a excessive genetic load of dangerous mutations, which places it at appreciable threat of extinction within the wild inside 100 years with out continued conservation actions.

An worldwide collaboration led by scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA), Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) on the University of Kent and the Earlham Institute within the UK, working with organizations on the bottom in Mauritius, investigated the genetic impacts of a inhabitants “bottleneck”—a speedy collapse in numbers that affected the pink pigeon from Mauritius within the late Eighties, with solely 12 birds surviving within the wild.

The crew analyzed the DNA of 175 birds sampled over almost 20 years as subsequent conservation efforts occurred.

With the assistance of biologists from the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, and in partnership with the Government of Mauritius’ National Parks and Conservation Service, the free-living inhabitants of the species has elevated to round 500 birds.

Consequently, the pink pigeon has been down-listed twice on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List from critically endangered to weak.

However, to maintain these populations viable, the researchers warn that “genetic rescue” is required to recuperate misplaced genetic variation attributable to inbreeding and to cut back the consequences of the dangerous mutations. This will be achieved by releasing captive-bred birds from UK and EU zoos.

Not all is rosy for the pink pigeon, study finds
Pink pigeon of Mauritius. Credit: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

The examine, printed in Conservation Biology, used conservation genetic work at DICE, cutting-edge genomic strategies developed at UEA and the Earlham Institute, and pc modeling to carefully study the species’ DNA and assess the chance of future extinction, in addition to forecasting what must be performed to safe the pink pigeon’s viability. The authors say their findings may assist different threatened species.

“By studying the genome of a recovered species that was once critically endangered, we can learn how to help other species to bounce back from a population collapse,” stated UEA’s Prof Cock van Oosterhout, one of many lead authors.

“During the pigeon’s population bottleneck, the gene pool lost a lot of variation, and many bad mutations increased in frequency. This genetic load still poses a severe threat, even though the population has recovered in numbers.”

Prof van Oosterhout, of the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA, added: “The problem is that all individuals are somehow related to each other. They are the descendants of the few ancestors that managed to survive the bottleneck. Hence, it becomes virtually impossible to stop inbreeding, and this exposes these bad mutations. In turn, this can increase the mortality rate, and it could cause the population to collapse again.”

Prof Jim Groombridge, from the University of Kent, defined how the preliminary restoration of the pink pigeon inhabitants was achieved: “A captive inhabitants of pink pigeons within the Gerald Durrell Endemic Wildlife Sanctuary in Mauritius, collectively managed by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the National Parks and Conservation Service, was established within the Seventies.

“This was used to breed birds for release into the wild, which boosted population numbers. The team also restored habitat by controlling introduced species and provided supplementary food as part of a field program of intensive conservation management, which further increased the free-living population.”

The examine used subtle software program referred to as SLiM that may mannequin a complete chicken chromosome, together with all its dangerous mutations. The researchers simulated the bottleneck and inhabitants restoration, after which they in contrast the expected outcomes of various reintroduction packages. The examine was subsequently capable of predict the viability of the inhabitants sooner or later below completely different conservation administration situations.

Not all is rosy for the pink pigeon, study finds
Pink pigeon of Mauritius. Credit: Mauritian Wildlife Foundation

“We didn’t know how many bad mutations the population carried initially, before the bottleneck,” stated Dr. Hernan Morales from University of Copenhagen, in Denmark, who carried out the SLiM modeling. “We first had to simulate the ancestral population to find out how many bad mutations could have evolved. We then checked this data with data on inbreeding depression data from zoo populations of the pink pigeon.”

Using pedigree and health information held at Jersey Zoo for over 1,000 birds, the crew estimated the genetic load, which confirmed that the pink pigeon carried a excessive genetic load of 15 deadly equivalents. This was then used to calibrate the pc fashions.

“The computer simulations clearly show that just boosting numbers isn’t enough,” added Dr. Morales. “The population also needs ‘genetic rescue’ from more genetically diverse birds bred in European zoos. These birds are not as closely related, and they can help to reduce the level of inbreeding. However, there is a risk that we could introduce other bad mutations from the zoo population into the wild.”

Dr. Camilla Ryan, who labored on the venture on the Earlham Institute and UEA, stated: “Our bioinformatics analysis indicated the importance of genetic diversity and the unique genetic rescue model to help other species from the brink of extinction. This research highlights the value of collaborations between NGOs, institutes and universities which draw together a range of expertise. This ensures that a holistic approach is taken to a species conservation which includes an understanding of its genetic health.”

Sam Speak, a Ph.D. pupil at UEA and co-author of the paper, added: “We are actually analyzing the genome of the pink pigeon from zoo populations right here within the UK, making an attempt to find these dangerous mutations. We can do that now utilizing bioinformatics instruments developed for learning human genetics and the genomes of different mannequin chicken species such because the hen.

“By using conservation genomics, future reintroduction programs can avoid releasing individuals with high genetic load. This would help reduce inbreeding and improve the long-term recovery of threatened species such as the pink pigeon.”

“Genomic erosion in a demographically recovered bird species during conservation rescue” is printed in Conservation Biology on May 13.

Smart use of genomic information wanted in species conservation

More data:
Genomic erosion in a demographically recovered chicken species throughout conservation rescue, Conservation Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/cobi.13918

Not all is rosy for the pink pigeon, examine finds (2022, May 12)
retrieved 12 May 2022

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