A University of Kent-led team of scientists has gained new insight into a rare virus that is threatening to wipe out the Mauritius parakeet -- one of the world's most endangered species of parrot.
The Mauritius parakeet was saved from the brink of extinction 30 years ago, thanks to the work of an international team of conservationists, including scientists from Kent. Now an outbreak of deadly Beak and Feather Disease is once again raising the spectre of extinction.
But a team led by Dr Jim Groombridge, of the University's Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE), has been able to make use of its archive of DNA samples from Mauritius parakeets, built up over many years, to identify how the world's smallest DNA circoviruses have evolved to cause the spread of the disease.
Dr Groombridge said: 'Circoviruses are amongst the smallest and simplest of all DNA viruses and detailed knowledge of how they evolve has largely remained a mystery, but the outbreak of Beak and Feather Disease ironically presented our team of scientists with the rare opportunity to gain an insight into the evolution of what is a poorly-characterised virus in a wild population.