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Each and Every One

The kakapo is a type of large, flightless parrot from New Zealand. The Atlantic describes it as "a green, bumbling parrot with the face of an owl and the mien of an old gentleman," with a "ponderous slow-motion gait" and "a naïveté toward danger." When Māori settlers first came to New Zealand in the 13th century they killed them for food and for their feathers. And European settlers in the 19th century (along with their menageries of stoats, weasels, cats, and dogs) finished the job, The Atlantic says.

"The kakapo vanished. The island's fjords, which once resounded with the booming calls of amorous males, fell silent. Through the 1950s and 1960s, intensive search parties turned up few traces of kakapo, and the few individuals that were found soon died. It looked as if the kakapo was an ex-parrot, literally pining for the fjords," the magazine adds.

And even more importantly, the magazine adds, by the end of 2017, every single kakapo on the planet will have had its genome sequenced. A team led by Andrew Digby from the Department of Conservation and Bruce Robertson from the University of Otago will sequence the genomes of all of these birds. 

The first kakapo to have its genome sequenced was a female called Jane. The researchers were Jason Howard and Erich Jarvis from Duke University — they were working on a broader effort to sequence the DNA of all 10,000 bird species, The Atlantic says. At the time, there were only 125 kakapos in existence, so Digby figured why not keep going and sequence all of them. More birds have joined the ranks since then, and there are now 181 kakapos, the magazine adds.

Combined with their geneology (which researchers know all about thanks to those radio transmitters), the information can help in the conservation efforts, track the birds' evolution, teach the researchers about how to ward off kakapo diseases, and maximize their genetic diversity, according to The Atlantic.

And if the worst happens and all the kakapo die off, having their genome sequences around could help researchers in the future revive the species, the magazine adds.