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A new genetic study on New Zealand’s iconic kākāpō birds provided some important insights for the conservation of the endangered parrots, Cosmos Magazine reported.

In their paper, scientists analyzed the genomes of 169 individuals of the species of flightless parrots, along with information about their lives collected by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

The study compared genetic differences among the kākāpō individuals and their reference genome. The researchers found connections between genetic data and survival traits, such as egg-laying and growth rates. Artificial intelligence tools also helped in identifying specific genetic variants that weren’t passed down.

The findings suggest that previous conservation efforts to help boost the avian species numbers have been very beneficial, illustrating that “active management over the past 45 years has maintained both genome-wide diversity and diversity in breeding values and, hence, evolutionary potential”.

For instance, combining kākāpō populations from different regions improved genetic diversity, leading to higher egg production and faster growth rates in the offspring.

Recent breeding seasons have also been successful, resulting in nearly twice as many kākāpō parrots since the study began.

The genes of these new chicks have also been sequenced, with the team hoping that this data can guide genetic information for each chick and provide early alerts if issues arise, such as growth rate deviations.

The authors believe that the analysis can assist in making better conservation decisions regarding genetic diversity, such as selecting which birds will go for artificial insemination or determining suitable island habitats.

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