The endangered Hawaiian duck or cola, the only endemic duck left on the main island of Hawaii, is threatened with genetic extinction due to interference with wild malarials. This has led to the creation of hybrid forms of the collage. But new research has found that the genetic diversity of the circuit is large and efforts to conserve the island of Kauai have been successful.
Caitlin Wells, a research scientist at Colorado State University, conducted the research as a postdoctoral scientist at the University of California, Davis. This study is the culmination of two decades of research led by scientists from the University of California, Davis; US Fish and Wildlife Service; University of Texas, El Paso; Wright State University; Oregon State University; and the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
The results of the study offer hope for ongoing conservation efforts with column and other endangered birds worldwide.
"Persistence of endangered domestic duck, wild traders and more hybrid swans across the main island of Hawaii," will be announced November 18 in Molecular Ecology, and Wales is the lead author.
Charismatic duck, located primarily in Kauai
Wells described the carriage as "a tiny, broad brown and charismatic duck," similar to a female.
"The fact that Kauai's columns are clean and have a lot of genetic variation are two really positive things that came out of this study," Wells said.
Andy Engilis, co-author of the study and curator of the UC Davis Museum of Animal Life and Fish, said the study was crucial in the fight to save the car from extinction. He has been involved in the conservation and research efforts of Hawaiian ducks since the late 1980s.
"This study lays the groundwork for a new chapter in column renewal, a new trajectory towards recovery and erasure as an endangered species," he said.
Kimberly Uijahara, a national biologist complex for Kauai wildlife refugees and co-author of the study, said the findings are significant.
"They have opened new doors in the area of possible rolling stock activities," she explained.
The largest cola population is in Kauai, where the team found very few hybrid birds. On the other islands, however, all birds were hybrids or wild malaria.
Historically, the colony existed across the main island islands of Hawaii, but they disappeared from all islands except Kauai and Niihau by the late 1960s due to habitat loss, predators and unregulated hunting. Shortly thereafter, wildlife managers began breeding prey and publishing programs in Oahu, Hawaii, and Maui to re-establish hens. Unfortunately, the mammals were never removed to these islands, resulting in rapid hybridization.
This research study was conducted, in part, to determine the genetic makeup of the Kauai colony. Previously, wildlife managers and conservationists have expressed concern that even Kauai refugees contain hybrid ducks.
The research project involved a huge bird-catching project
The research team studied 425 breeds, trademarks and hybrids of the population of the Hawaiian Islands, collecting more than 3,300 points of genetic data from birds. The project involved a large-scale bird warfare project, led by associates in Oregon State and the Canaley National Wildlife Refuge. Team members collected blood samples from hundreds of birds before releasing them back into the wild.
The researchers also collected genetic data from carcasses taken after the outbreak of botulism, especially in the Kauai population. All specimens and specimens are archived at the David Davis Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology.
"We used many tissue samples from salted birds that unfortunately died of these diseases," Wells said.
Previously, wildlife managers thought that if they left the hybrid wheels alone, the birds would eventually return to a clean column by themselves.
"That's not what we found," Wells explained. "If you do not have pure-car parents who go beyond wild trademarks, you will not be reduced to those hybrid proportions."
Why save the column?
The recovery of the endangered car is important as the bird is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands.
"Its recovery can be seen as a beacon of hope for the many dozens of critically endangered birds found on the islands," Engilis said. Researchers also point out that its recovery is important because of its unique evolutionary history.
"If the environment is changed because of things like climate change, there is a great potential for the column to develop independently, given the genetic diversity we have seen," Wells said.
Hybridization of species is a tricky issue in conservation. At times, it can be threatened by a unique gene pool of animals that is well adapted to its surroundings. In other cases, when a species is implanted, it may be the right move to add more genetic diversity to the population.
"But here's a case where we have enough individuals with enough genetic variation in the column and we also genetically identified the hybridizing strains," she said. "It seems very clear that we can separate those who move forward."
What’s next for preserving circuits
Wells said the team's research provides insights into the successful management of conservation and the ability to restore this species.
"These efforts may one day eventually lead to the bird being removed from the endangered species list," she said.
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The Little Duck That Can: Study Finds Endangered Hawaiian Ducks Endured (2019, November 18)
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