New research published online today in The Royal Society’s journal Biology Letters shows that “clustered habitat networks” are needed to maintain the genetic diversity of Florida Scrub-Jays, a species at risk of extinction with just more than 5,000 birds left in the world.
The new research reveals, for the first time, a direct connection between genetic variation of Florida Scrub-Jay groups and geographic distances separating patches of their favored scrub-oak habitat. Researchers analyzed DNA samples of Florida Scrub-Jays and evaluated how genetic differences between them were affected by the gaps of habitat in between them. They found that if habitat patches were separated by more than 2 to 3 miles, the distance was too far to permit free interbreeding – thereby resulting in more inbreeding within isolated groups. Inbreeding reduces genetic fitness, and raises the risk that an isolated population will blink out.
“We now know how to configure the stepping stones of scrub-oak habitat so they can link together Florida Scrub-Jay populations and maintain sufficient genetic diversity to promote long-term survival of the species,” says John Fitzpatrick, co-author of the research and executive director of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “These research findings will be critical to a revision of the recovery plan for endangered Florida Scrub-Jays.”
Fitzpatrick says the findings lay out, for the first time, a precise prescription for sustaining fragmented populations of an endangered species, and could be a model for other examples around the country. For Florida Scrub-Jays, that prescription is to maintain or restore networks of the bird’s scrub-oak habitat so that individual preserves would be located within 2 to 3 miles of each other. Fitzpatrick says that because the Florida Scrub-Jay population is broken up into 10 distinct genetic units, these habitat networks would only need to be established locally within the 10 regions of individual populations, not across the bird’s entire range in Florida.
“We are now revising the Florida Scrub-Jay Recovery Plan to create the geometry of habitat preserves needed within each of the 10 units of the Florida-Scrub Jay population,” says Fitzpatrick, who also is a team leader for the group of government and university biologists working on submitting a revised Florida Scrub-Jay recovery plan to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by year’s end.
The Florida Scrub-Jay is the only bird found exclusively in Florida. It was added to the federal Endangered Species List in 1987, with a dwindling population down to less than 10 percent of its pre-settlement numbers. The high, dry, sandy scrub-oak patches where the bird lives and breeds exclusively have been prime real estate for Florida developers and for citrus farms. Today, only about 5 percent of the original scrub-oak habitat remains.
“The pizza is gone,” Fitzpatrick says. “We’re just trying to save the crumbs, so we can keep the Florida Scrub-Jay and a host of other scrub animals and plants in existence.”
Online access to the paper requires a subscription to Biology Letters, but copies of the paper are available to journalists upon request. To read an abstract of the paper, visit: rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/lookup/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2011.1244.
For more information on the Florida Scrub-Jay – including identification, range information and sample audio – go to www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Florida_Scrub-Jay/id/ac
John Carberry | Newswise Science News
Foxes in the city: citizen science helps researchers to study urban wildlife
14.12.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Machine learning helps predict worldwide plant-conservation priorities
04.12.2018 | Ohio State University
Researchers from the University of Basel have reported a new method that allows the physical state of just a few atoms or molecules within a network to be controlled. It is based on the spontaneous self-organization of molecules into extensive networks with pores about one nanometer in size. In the journal ‘small’, the physicists reported on their investigations, which could be of particular importance for the development of new storage devices.
Around the world, researchers are attempting to shrink data storage devices to achieve as large a storage capacity in as small a space as possible. In almost...
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
18.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
18.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy