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  1. Abstract

    Genetic and genomic data are increasingly used to aid conservation management of endangered species by providing insights into evolutionary histories, factors associated with extinction risks, and potential for future adaptation. For the ‘Alalā, or Hawaiian crow (Corvus hawaiiensis), genetic concerns include negative correlations between inbreeding and hatching success. However, it is unclear if low genetic diversity and inbreeding depression are consequences of a historical population bottleneck, or if ‘Alalā had historically low genetic diversity that predated human influence, perhaps as a result of earlier declines or founding events. In this study, we applied a hybridization-based sequence capture to generate a genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) dataset for comparing historical specimens collected in the 1890s, when ‘Alalā were more numerous, to samples taken between 1973 and 1998, when ‘Alalā population densities were near the lowest documented levels in the wild, prior to all individuals being collected for captive rearing. We found low genome-wide diversity in both sample groups, however, the modern sample group (1973 to 1998 cohort) exhibited relatively fewer polymorphic alleles, a lower proportion of polymorphic loci, and lower observed heterozygosity, consistent with a population decline and potential bottleneck effects. These results combined with a current low population size highlight the importance of continued efforts by conservation managers to mitigate inbreeding and maintain founder representation to preserve what genetic diversity remains.

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  2. Abstract

    The unprecedented rise in the number of new and emerging infectious diseases in the last quarter century poses direct threats to human and wildlife health. The introduction to the Hawaiian archipelago of Plasmodium relictum and the mosquito vector that transmits the parasite has led to dramatic losses in endemic Hawaiian forest bird species. Understanding how mechanisms of disease immunity to avian malaria may evolve is critical as climate change facilitates increased disease transmission to high elevation habitats where malaria transmission has historically been low and the majority of the remaining extant Hawaiian forest bird species now reside. Here, we compare the transcriptomic profiles of highly susceptible Hawai‘i ‘amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens) experimentally infected with P. relictum to those of uninfected control birds from a naïve high elevation population. We examined changes in gene expression profiles at different stages of infection to provide an in-depth characterization of the molecular pathways contributing to survival or mortality in these birds. We show that the timing and magnitude of the innate and adaptive immune response differed substantially between individuals that survived and those that succumbed to infection, and likely contributed to the observed variation in survival. These results lay the foundation for developing gene-based conservation strategies for Hawaiian honeycreepers by identifying candidate genes and cellular pathways involved in the pathogen response that correlate with a bird’s ability to recover from malaria infection.

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  3. Gillespie, Rosemary (Ed.)
    Abstract The Hawai‘ian honeycreepers (drepanids) are a classic example of adaptive radiation: they adapted to a variety of novel dietary niches, evolving a wide range of bill morphologies. Here we investigated genomic diversity, demographic history, and genes involved in bill morphology phenotypes in 2 honeycreepers: the ‘akiapōlā‘au (Hemignathus wilsoni) and the Hawai‘i ‘amakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens). The ‘akiapōlā‘au is an endangered island endemic, filling the “woodpecker” niche by using a unique bill morphology, while the Hawai‘i ‘amakihi is a dietary generalist common on the islands of Hawai‘i and Maui. We de novo sequenced the ‘akiapōlā‘au genome and compared it to the previously sequenced ‘amakihi genome. The ‘akiapōlā‘au is far less heterozygous and has a smaller effective population size than the ‘amakihi, which matches expectations due to its smaller census population and restricted ecological niche. Our investigation revealed genomic islands of divergence, which may be involved in the honeycreeper radiation. Within these islands of divergence, we identified candidate genes (including DLK1, FOXB1, KIF6, MAML3, PHF20, RBP1, and TIMM17A) that may play a role in honeycreeper adaptations. The gene DLK1, previously shown to influence Darwin’s finch bill size, may be related to honeycreeper bill morphology evolution, while the functions of the other candidates remain unknown. 
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  4. Abstract

    The malaria parasitePlasmodium relictum(lineage GRW4) was introduced less than a century ago to the native avifauna of Hawaiʻi, where it has since caused major declines of endemic bird populations. One of the native bird species that is frequently infected with GRW4 is the Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi (Chlorodrepanis virens). To achieve a better understanding of the transcriptional activities of this virulent parasite, we performed a controlled challenge experiment of 15 ʻamakihi that were infected with GRW4. Blood samples containing malaria parasites were collected at two time points (intermediate and peak infection stages) from host individuals that were either experimentally infected by mosquitoes or inoculated with infected blood. We then used RNA sequencing to assemble a high‐quality blood transcriptome ofP. relictumGRW4, allowing us to quantify parasite expression levels inside individual birds. We found few significant differences (one to two transcripts) in GRW4 expression levels between host infection stages and between inoculation methods. However, 36 transcripts showed differential expression levels among all host individuals, indicating a potential presence of host‐specific gene regulation across hosts. To reduce the extinction risk of the remaining native bird species in Hawaiʻi, genetic resources of the localPlasmodiumlineage are needed to enable further molecular characterization of this parasite. Our newly built Hawaiian GRW4 transcriptome assembly, together with analyses of the parasite's transcriptional activities inside the blood of Hawaiʻi ʻamakihi, can provide us with important knowledge on how to combat this deadly avian disease in the future.

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  5. Abstract

    Janzen's influential “mountain passes are higher in the tropics” hypothesis predicts restricted gene flow and genetic isolation among populations spanning elevational gradients in the tropics. Few studies have tested this prediction, and studies that focus on population genetic structure in Southeast Asia are particularly underrepresented in the literature. Here, we test the hypothesis that mountain treeshrews (Tupaia montana) exhibit limited dispersal across their broad elevational range which spans ~2,300 m on two peaks in Kinabalu National Park (KNP) in Borneo: Mt Tambuyukon (MT) and Mt Kinabalu (MK). We sampled 83 individuals across elevations on both peaks and performed population genomics analyses on mitogenomes and single nucleotide polymorphisms from 4,106 ultraconserved element loci. We detected weak genetic structure and infer gene flow both across elevations and between peaks. We found higher genetic differentiation on MT than MK despite its lower elevation and associated environmental variation. This implies that, contrary to our hypothesis, genetic structure in this system is not primarily shaped by elevation. We propose that this pattern may instead be the result of historical processes and limited upslope gene flow on MT. Importantly, our results serve as a foundational estimate of genetic diversity and population structure from which to track potential future effects of climate change on mountain treeshrews in KNP, an important conservation stronghold for the mountain treeshrew and other montane species.

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  6. null (Ed.)