Lack of clear genetic structuring in wild populations of the endangered Gouldian finch

Peri’s paper characterising the population genetics of the Gouldian finch in the wild was published last week in the open access PLosOne. This paper focuses on birds sampled from across the range of the Gouldian finch including samples from Mornington and Wyndham in the Kimberley, Western Australia; a number of sites in the Northern Territory, and Chidna in Queensland. DNA extracted from blood samples taken from the wild birds was analysed using three molecular approaches and indicates that there is no clear genetic structuring across the sampled areas. This is consistent with a view that Gouldians are quite mobile, and individuals may be found across a wide range. An implication of this molecular work is that the species may be more difficult to reliably census than species which have a higher level of genetic structuring, and are more restricted to particular areas or sites.

Network connecting mitochondrial control region haplotypes from the different sampling localities (FiguresĀ from Bolton et al 2016, in PLosONE)

The rationale for undertaking this work was to help inform management of this species, and this work was part of our submission to the committee responsible for the Federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, who on the 7th December announced their decision to retain the status of the Gouldian finch as ‘endangered’ which is a great outcome and maintains a good degree of protection for the species and its habitat.

The full paper is open access and can be found here.

Sparrows from India?

SparrowMaletrimB&WSam’s first sparrow paper has just been published in the open access journal Avian Research, which means that it’s freely available (here). In our paper we have looked at the history of the house sparrow introduction into Australia in the 1860’s. A great effort was made to introduce sparrows in an effort to use them to fight the insect pests that were perceived to be causing significant damage to the ability of the farms to feed the early colonists. One of the most surprising findings of the historical research that we conducted was that although it is commonly believed that the sparrows came out from England, we found clear evidence that the first birds to arrive and breed in Australia in fact came from India.

Peri’s second paper!

Peri’s second paper was published today in Molecular Ecology. It was a follow up to her first paper which attracted useful discussion by Anders Forsman (Lund, Sweden). The new paper clarifies our thoughts on why polymorphic species might be vulnerable because of the negative interactions between different morphs. Conceptually it builds from our work on the Gouldian finch and long-tailed finch.

The paper can be found here:

Nest boxes off to Armidale


Nestboxes for house sparrows are leaving today on their way to Armidale where they’ll be erected at a number of properties around this inland city. Hopefully they will provide welcome homes for house sparrows that will be studied as part of our research into how birds are effected by climate. The house sparrow was introduced into Australia in the 1860’s and has become widely established across a range of different climates.

The relatively high altitude of Armidale and it’s position to the west of the dividing range provides a very different climate from most of the coastal cities in Eastern Australia.

Rain at Fowlers……

Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, where we conduct a lot of our ongoing fieldwork, has received 32mm of rain in a rain event over 7-8th May. This is a significant amount and will help to replenish the environment out there and set up a good winter and hopefully good breeding conditions for the zebra finches and chestnut-crowned babblers………