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No Signs of Genetic Erosion in a 19th Century Genome of the Extinct Paradise Parrot (Psephotellus pulcherrimus)

Department of Bioinformatics and Genetics, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50007, SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden
Department of Zoology, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Box 50007, SE-104 05 Stockholm, Sweden
Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Nathan 4111, Australia
Biodiversity and Geosciences Program, Queensland Museum, South Brisbane 4101, Australia
Australian National Wildlife Collection, CSIRO National Research Collections Australia, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
Museum für Naturkunde, Leibniz Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung, 10115 Berlin, Germany
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(4), 58;
Received: 7 March 2019 / Revised: 5 April 2019 / Accepted: 8 April 2019 / Published: 15 April 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genomic Analyses of Avian Evolution)
PDF [808 KB, uploaded 15 April 2019]


The Paradise Parrot, Psephotellus pulcherrimus, was a charismatic Australian bird that became extinct around 1928. While many extrinsic factors have been proposed to explain its disappearance, it remains unclear as to what extent genetic erosion might have contributed to the species’ demise. In this study, we use whole-genome resequencing to reconstruct a 15x coverage genome based on a historical museum specimen and shed further light on the evolutionary history that preceded the extinction of the Paradise Parrot. By comparing the genetic diversity of this genome with genomes from extant endangered birds, we show that during the species’ dramatic decline in the second half of the 19th century, the Paradise Parrot was genetically more diverse than individuals from species that are currently classified as endangered. Furthermore, demographic analyses suggest that the population size of the Paradise Parrot changed with temperature fluctuations during the last glacial cycle. We also confirm that the Golden-shouldered Parrot, Psephotellus chrysopterygius, is the closest living relative of this extinct parrot. Overall, our study highlights the importance of museum collections as repositories of biodiversity across time and demonstrates how historical specimens can provide a broader context on the circumstances that lead to species extinctions. View Full-Text
Keywords: Psephotellus pulcherrimus; museomics; genome-wide heterozygosity; genetic erosion Psephotellus pulcherrimus; museomics; genome-wide heterozygosity; genetic erosion

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Irestedt, M.; Ericson, P.G.P.; Johansson, U.S.; Oliver, P.; Joseph, L.; Blom, M.P.K. No Signs of Genetic Erosion in a 19th Century Genome of the Extinct Paradise Parrot (Psephotellus pulcherrimus). Diversity 2019, 11, 58.

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