Poster Presentation Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution Conference 2016

Phylogeny and innate immune gene diversity within the Australian parrot genus Neophema (#356)

Caitlin Morrison 1 , Catherine Grueber 2 3 , Greta Frankham 1 , Carolyn Hogg 2 4 , Rebecca Johnson 1
  1. Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
  3. San Diego Zoo Global, San Diego, CA, USA
  4. Zoo and Aquarium Association Australasia, Mosman, NSW

Neophema is a genus of small Australian parrots otherwise known as the grass parakeets.  It contains six species, including several popular aviary birds, as well as one of Australia’s most endangered birds, the orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster, OBP).  This project will investigate diversity within Neophema through shotgun sequencing and assembly of whole mitochondrial genomes, as well as sequencing of innate immunity genes the toll-like receptors (TLRs).  Diversity will be assessed across the genus as well as between individual birds.  The project will generate a resolved phylogeny of Neophema, which contains two suspected subgenera as well as two sets of subspecies.  To date no molecular analysis has included all six species or confirmed the assignment of subspecies; additionally, previous molecular phylogenies have contradicted the current division into two subgenera.  Resolution of a complete phylogeny including all six species in the genus will assist in development of management priorities for the orange-bellied parrot.  Additionally, a robust phylogeny will assist in the assessment of diversity of toll-like receptor (TLR) genes between Neophema species, and in the context of the disease Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD). PBFD affects many species of parrots worldwide, and is one of the major threats to the persistence of the wild population of orange-bellied parrots, which currently contains fewer than 70 individuals. Understanding species and individual-level differences in TLRs as well as disease prevalence and resolution may produce information of relevance to disease management, especially for the critically endangered OBP.  We are working in collaboration with the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment (DPIPWE) Tasmania, and the results of this work will be applied directly in management decisions in real time.