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In Hawaii, bird’s genetic trail leads from island to island

Cara J

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When Japanese bush-warblers (Cettia diphone) were introduced to Oahu in the 1920s, it might not have been good for native wildlife, but it turned out to be helpful for researchers. As the birds made their way to five of the main Hawaiian Islands in the 1990s, it gave researchers the perfect opportunity to look at genetic changes in a newly introduced species. “The idea that we could use genetics to track their movements from island to island was really exciting,” said TWS member Jeff Foster, an associate professor at Northern Arizona University. In a study published in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, researchers collected blood and tissue samples from 147 bush warblers to test the genetic diversity of the different populations. “Working on native birds is really satisfying but logistically is very challenging,” said Foster, lead author of the study. Many native Hawaiian species are isolated on the tops of mountains that are difficult to access, he said, but “introduced birds have very few of those challenges. They’re everywhere.” Traveling to different islands to sample the birds, Foster and his colleagues found evidence of genetic drift. In other words, random chance has allowed for genetic differences to occur in birds at [...]


Read more: http://wildlife.org/in-hawaii-birds-genetic-trail-leads-from-island-to-island/

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