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Deakin study finds diversity critical for protecting parrots

Deakin study finds diversity critical for protecting parrots

Image: Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans). Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.

A Deakin University research team, supported by ARC Linkage Projects funding, has discovered the genetic diversity of Australian parrots affects their chances of contracting a common but deadly virus, and also how much of the virus they harbour.

The study’s results, published in the journal Scientific Reports indicate that small threatened populations like the orange-bellied parrot may therefore be more susceptible to disease.

Lead author, Dr Justin Eastwood, who completed the research as part of his PhD studies in Deakin's Centre for Integrative Ecology, said the beak and feather disease virus was thought to affect all of Australia's parrot species, including the high-profile orange-bellied parrot, which experienced a deadly outbreak in 2014.

"The virus disrupts the production of keratin, the building blocks of a bird's feathers and bill. So it can be pretty nasty for the birds and even be fatal," Dr Eastwood said.

Media issued by Deakin University.

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