Bobwhite Quail Phylogenomics

Masked bobwhite quail / Steve Hillebrand

The masked bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgewayi), native to southern Arizona and Sonora, is a species of quail on the verge of extinction. Masked bobwhite populations rapidly declined in the mid 1800’s due to widespread habitat destruction. Despite extensive efforts, reintroduction attempts failed and the masked bobwhite was federally listed as endangered in 1967. In 1985, the Buenos Aires Ranch in Sasabe, Arizona, was acquired by the USFWS as a national wildlife refuge for the masked bobwhite. A captive breeding program was established with birds being periodically released. However, surveys conducted for over a decade have shown an overall downward trend in populations in the United States and Mexico. Previous studies have analyzed genetic relationships among northern bobwhites; however, little is known regarding the relationships between masked bobwhite and its Mexican counterparts. The purpose of my research is to resolve taxonomic relationships among quail populations inhabiting geographic regions similar to that of the masked bobwhite.  I’ve collected contemporary tissue and museum samples from nine bobwhite subspecies including Texas bobwhite (C. v. texanus), and seven Mexican sub-species. I am employing a high-throughput targeted genomic capture approach, which is very useful for reconstructing the evolutionary history of many organisms.

Photo Dec 18, 10 17 17 AM

I will isolate and sequence approximately 5,000 conserved regions to construct phylogenetic trees to identify the closest extant relative of the masked bobwhite. The newly gained taxonomic information will aid the recovery efforts for the endangered masked bobwhite. This data will allow managers to make informed decisions regarding reintroduction or translocations of masked bobwhite.

Masked bobwhite (male)2 D62

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