Projects per year
Birds, in particular poultry and ducks, are a source of many infectious diseases, such as those caused by influenza viruses. These viruses are a threat not only to the birds themselves but also to poultry farming and human health, as forms that can infect humans are known to have evolved. It is believed that migratory birds in general play an important role in the global spread of avian influenza (AI). However, it is still debated how large this role precisely is and whether other modes of spread may be more important. The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is the world’s most abundant and well-studied waterfowl species. Besides being an important game and agricultural species, it is also a flagship species in wetland conservation and restoration. Waterfowl (Anseriformes: Anatidae) and especially ducks currently are the focal bird group in long distance dispersal of Avian Influenza in the wild, and the mallard has been identified as the most likely species to transport this virus.
In my thesis I report aspects of the biology of this important host species of AI by molecular ecological means. As molecular marker system I established a genome-wide set of more than 100,000 SNPs of which I developed a subset of 384 SNPs into an assay to genotype about 1,000 ducks. This subset was employed to study the evolutionary history and speciation processes in the Anas genus. Further investigations into the world-wide mallard population structure on a species level were based not only on this set of 384 SNPs but also on mitochondrial DNA sequences. Last but not last, I investigated an option of AI sampling and detection from duck faeces by technology that is safe from a biohazard perspective, and solves transportation issues related to cold chains.
The main results of my thesis include the development of a generally applicable improved analysis pipeline to develop genome-wide SNP sets for non-model organisms. Further, my results show that, from a migration system perspective, mallard flyways/populations can hardly be delineated from a biological point of view. Detailed phylogenetic, population genetic and coalescent analyses of a data set of samples spanning the whole northern hemisphere leads me to conclude that the only firm population boundaries that I can draw are between Eurasia and North America, within which panmixia is almost achieved. Mallards’ and other Anas-ducks’ whole continental to global distribution brings them together in sympatry. I can show that a combination of sympatric distribution, conflicting genetically determined and learned mate recognition mechanisms, and genomic compatibility between species helps to explain the long-standing puzzle of waterfowl hybridisation and introgression of genes from one duck species into another. Besides obvious management implications I propose that this fact can be part of the explanation why ducks are so well adaptable and successful, as well as why they show extraordinary abilities to withstand AI infections, or its consequences for health status.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||13 Dec 2011|
|Place of Publication||[S.l.]|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|
- avian influenza viruses
- avian influenza
- anas platyrhynchos
- disease transmission
- bird migration
- population genetics
- evolutionary genetics
- disease surveys
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