Avian Evolution Laboratory

Evaluating Genomics of Avian Taxa

*** This initiative/award is closed ***

The Avian Evolution Laboratory at the National University of Singapore and Wildlife Reserves Singapore are collaborating on a project that aims to evaluate the genomics of select avian taxa currently threatened by the cage-bird trade.

This conservation project implements the most urgently needed genomic protection measures over four species complexes identified during the Songbird Crisis Summit 2015 as taxonomically challenging and cryptic.

The species complexes present the highest risks of taxic extinctions before species boundary delimitations, and include the Black-Winged Starling (Acridotheres melanopterus), Asian Pied Starling (Gracupica contra jalla), Oriental White-Eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) and Hill Myna (Gracula religiosa).

Croeni Charity has provided funds for the next-generation sequencing which allows for high resolution genetic inquiry into these species complexes.


The project results thus far have revealed unexpected hidden diversity within some birds which have historically been recognized as a single species (such as the Oriental White-Eye and Common Hill Myna), whilst in other cases the converse was true (Black-Winged Myna). The discovery of  hidden diversity is crucial because such species often deserve but do not receive conservation attention. New genetic tools were used to investigate diversity in several species of birds which are highly coveted in the illegal wildlife trade.

The results can be utilized to direct conservation efforts for certain species and to advise zoos and other conservation programs on how to best reverse the declines of these species. The project continues with more research work on Oriental White-Eyes, Common Hill Mynas and Asian Pied Starling.

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