Hope for Night Parrot conservation: genome unlocked for the first time

Hope for Night Parrot conservation: genome unlocked for the first time

By Ashmeeta Subra  February 28th, 2024

Researchers at CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, have successfully sequenced the genome of the rare and elusive Night Parrot, boosting conservation hopes for the species.


This ground-breaking achievement offers great promise for answering questions about population genetics and biology, potentially boosting conservation efforts for this recently rediscovered species. 

“The genome will enable us to explore the genetic basis of why the Night Parrot is nocturnal, a very unusual feature in parrots,” Dr Leo Joseph, Director of CSIRO’s Australian National Wildlife Collection said in a press release

"We’ll investigate faculties like navigation, smell, beak shape and its less-than-optimal night vision.”  

The sequenced genome will enable statistical analyses, allowing researchers to estimate past population sizes of Night Parrots in Australia. With the capability to now compare this annotated genome with those of closely related parrots, researchers hope to uncover the reasons behind its scarcity and limited distribution compared to its relatives.  

Traditional Owners in the Pilbara found a deceased Night Parrot specimen and delivered it to the Western Australia Museum Boola Bardip, allowing CSIRO researchers to analyse its tissue and uncover its genetic blueprint for the first time ever. The specimen, now on display at the museum, stands as the best-preserved Night Parrot specimen globally. First Nations rangers have had a critical role in discovering more information about the elusive species, with a rare recording of the parrot captured late last year.  

According to Dr. Gunjan Pandey who leads the Night Parrot genomics project, access to high-throughput DNA sequencing technology under CSIRO’s Applied Genomics Initiative is accelerating genomics research in Australia. It is now possible to generate high-quality genomes from tissue samples as tiny as an ant’s head – a level of quality and detail that was not possible even five years ago.   

Once widespread in arid Australia, the Night Parrot population faced a decline due to environmental changes and threats from predators such as cats and foxes. Now restricted to localised parts of southwest Queensland and Western Australia, conservation efforts are crucial in managing the challenges faced by the species, including predation, habitat loss, and fire.  

The sequencing of the Night Parrot genome offers numerous opportunities for further research, empowering scientists to develop a plan to help conserve this species.  

Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.


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Ashmeeta Subra

With background in international relations and marketing communications, Ashmeeta is excited to use her skills to encourage positive environmental actions through Planet Ark. She believes that by taking small actions, we can help make a big difference and be good stewards of our planet. Outside of work, she loves spending time in nature and enjoying downtime at the beach.

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