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Genetics to help conserve rare bird species

A new DNA-based method to identify sexes of birds from a drop of blood or a feather will help captive breeding of rare and endangered species of the avians for their protection, a group of Indian scientists have said.

tech reviews Updated: Jan 12, 2009 12:00 IST

A new DNA-based method to identify sexes of birds from a drop of blood or a feather will help captive breeding of rare and endangered species of the avians for their protection, a group of Indian scientists have said.

"Identification of sex of birds is quite confusing and just physical inspection may not help every time. We can do the identification of bird's sex by extracting DNA from just a feather or a drop of blood of the bird," said S Shivaji, a senior scientist at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.

"We have earlier tried the methods in vultures and now we are going to use the technique for exotic and rare Indian bird species," said Shivaji, who is part of a team that developed the method.

"Flamingo, Alexandrian parakeets, ringnecked parakeets, plumhead, blue winged parakeets, muniyas and mainas, the Great Indian Bustard are going extinct and their conservation is essential," Anuradha Reddy, another scientist at CCMB said.

According to experts, exotic species bought from other countries are sometimes bred in captivity and the birds are extremely costly. And rare species like the Great Indian Bustard are not found all over the country but are restricted to small isolated pockets and this new technique will help address the issues.

Captive breeding or artificial reproduction in birds is done mainly in zoos because exotic species are becoming extinct due to hunting for flesh or pet trade, loss of habitat or environmental changes like pollution which adversely affect egg laying and survival of the neonates.