Using conservation genomics to predict adaptive potential in hihi (Notiomystis cincta)

Friday 17 May, 2019
3.00 pm
Vallentine Annexe Theatre 121

For species of conservation concern, knowledge of the genetic basis of traits important for survival and reproduction will enable more accurate predictions of the species’ capacity to adapt in response to future selection pressures. Studies in the wild give particularly valuable insight, as species are observed in their natural habitat, and the contribution of genes versus environment on the traits can be disentangled. Hihi (stitchbird, Notiomystis cincta) are a threatened endemic New Zealand passerine that have been undergoing intensive conservation management since the 1980s, and are a model species for successful reintroduction biology. Pedigree, reproductive and morphological data is available for the Tiritiri Matangi island population dating back to 2005, and we have recently developed a large genomic dataset. We used this data to determine the evolutionary potential of the species, by measuring two proxies for adaptive potential - the genetic contribution to trait differences between individuals, and overall genetic diversity - and by measuring adaptive potential directly from fitness data. I’ll discuss what our results mean in terms of how best to preserve this unique species.

Biography: Dr Anna Santure is a quantitative and evolutionary geneticist fascinated by the incredible diversity we see between individuals within a species. Her research focuses on determining the genetic basis of adaptive traits in wild populations. Current major projects in her group include investigating the adaptive potential of a threatened New Zealand bird, the hihi (Notiomystis cincta), and determining the genetic basis of the success of the highly invasive common myna (Acridotheres tristis). In addition, other ongoing projects include modelling the accumulation of genetic differences between populations over time, measuring the impact of inbreeding on fitness in wild populations, and genome assembly and annotation of the hihi and common myna genomes.

HOST: Dr Lee Ann Rollins