Original Published Date: 
Monday, August 5, 2019

Full article issued by Monash University.

New ARC-supported research conducted by a collaborative research team led by Monash University reveals just how much damage is done by inbreeding in the critically endangered Helmeted Honeyeater.

Habitat destruction results in wildlife populations that are small, made up of relatives, and have low genetic variation. Breeding between relatives (inbreeding) has harmful effects called ‘inbreeding depression’, often experienced as a shortened life, a poor breeder, or even death. Not surprisingly then, most animals avoid breeding with their relatives. But when populations become too small, it becomes impossible to find a mate who is not some kind of relation.

The study involved collaboration with Zoos Victoria, the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and other conservation partners, with funding from the ARC. The Helmeted Honeyeater, named for its ‘helmet’ of head feathers, is a much-loved State emblem found only in a small region of the State of Victoria.

Photo credit: 

Image: Helmeted Honeyeater in the Healesville Sanctuarys' aviary that holds manage birds under their endangered species captive reintroduction breeding program. Credit: Dylan Sanusi-Goh (CC BY 4.0)