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Kākāpō Sequences to Inform Conservation Efforts, Management

Researchers have sequenced nearly all living kākāpō, a critically endangered parrot that lives in New Zealand, to inform conservation efforts. As they report in Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers from the University of Otago and elsewhere generated high-throughput short-read libraries for 125 living kākāpō — nearly all those alive at the time — and for 44 kākāpō from previous generations. With this, they generated a high-quality variant callset for the bird. They further folded in longitudinal data from a kākāpō monitoring program to conduct genome-wide association studies to identify candidate genes for a range of key traits, and with genotype and phenotype data, they developed breeding values to inform management practices, such as monitoring individuals at increased disease risk or with poor growth. "These approaches can be applied to other managed species (which often inherently have small numbers of individuals and low diversity), adding an exceptional level of information for improved species recovery," Rebecca Taylor from Environment and Climate Change Canada writes in a related commentary. "The obvious limitation is the need for phenotypic and high-quality genomic data from a high proportion of individuals of the species or population of interest."