The Australian Avian Genomics Initiative
The Australian Avian Genomics Initiative aims to build a foundation of genomic data to advance our understanding and conservation of Australia’s unique native birds.
As we advance through the Australian vertebrate Tree of Life (OMG, TSI, AusARG), the Avian Genomics Initiative will address gaps in genomic data resources to support investigation and management of unique and valuable Australian bird species.
Australia is considered the most important continent for the evolution of modern birds, with a majority of the world’s species tracing their ancestry here. Australia is home to ~830 species of birds, of which 43% are endemics and only found here. There have been substantial efforts, particularly internationally in avian genomics and phylogenomics. However, central gaps remain in the reference data available for Australian bird species.
An audit of existing reference genomes has been created from Bird10K, VGP, CCGP, BGI, DToL and the Bioplatforms-supported Threatened Species Initiative and 687 reference genomes were found. Out of the 107 families of birds that are found in Australia 41 families of native or endemic birds have no Australian representative reference genome. Filling these gaps in referential data would have significant value in linking genomics, ecology and behaviour for species and functional traits that are uniquely Australian.
The Avian Genomic Initiative aims to:
- Build a foundation of genomic data to advance our understanding and conservation of Australia’s unique bird species (including phylogenomics, reference genomes, population genetics)
- Accelerate fundamental research of bird genomics in areas that Australia is uniquely placed to make its mark on the world stage. This includes advancing our understanding of key species traits and how we may manage them, such as migration and nomadism and the spectrum in-between those extremes; nectarivory; drought tolerance or non-tolerance; co-operative breeding; genetic controls of plumage patterns and mimicry; vocal mimicry; construction of mud nests; adaptation to the arid zone; bill morphology; and detection of infrasound (how waterbirds locate water after rainfall events)
- Complement fundamental research with genomics to meet critical needs of our unique bird biodiversity, as identified by society, government and industry