Resistance to avian malaria in Hawai’i amakihi

Genomics of resistance to avian malaria among Hawaii amakihi:

Avian malaria was introduced to Hawaii in the 1940s and caused devastating population declines in many native Hawaiian birds, driving some to extinction.   Some species, notably the Hawai’i amakihi (Hemignathus virens), were able to survive in small, isolated populations and have developed the ability to survive malaria infection.  Recently, amakihi populations have begun to rebound despite the widespread presence of malaria.  It is our goal to characterize the genomic changes that are involved in resistance to avian malaria.


To do this, we are using an amakihi reference genome developed by T. Callicrate, along with the annotated zebrafinch genome, to identify SNPs that are associated with resistance to malaria.  Using capture arrays created from RAD tags, we have relatively even coverage of SNPs across the genome. The following figure is a representation of the degree of diversity across Chromosome 1 in 18 birds, with darker blue bars representing more SNPs in that region.