European Turtle Dove Genome Note

Turtle dove
Turtle dove, Streptopelia turtur (Image:Francesco Veronesi/Flickr)

The genome note for the European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) has just been released on Wellcome Open Research: https://wellcomeopenresearch.org/articles/6-191

Populations in the Atlantic archipelago of Britain and Ireland are primarily located in southern and eastern England. S. turtur populations are in rapid decline in the UK, having fallen by 98% between 1970 and 2018, making them critically endangered. They are also vulnerable to global extinction.

Several causes have been put forward for this collapse in population. Changes in farming practices and agricultural intensification in the UK have reduced the availability of wild plant seeds, increasing the reliance of S. turtur on seed sources from humans. This is believed to have a negative impact on the doves’ nestling condition.

Additionally, infection with the protozoan parasite Trichomonas gallinae has been identified as a cause of death in adults and nestlings. The length of breeding seasons and the number of breeding attempts of S. turtur have markedly reduced, meaning that fewer young are hatched each year.

Large populations of migrating birds are also hunted in Mediterranean countries, such as France, Spain and Morocco, adding to this decline in numbers.

The genome sequence described here will help researchers looking at the vulnerability of S. turtur to parasitic infections, and to those interested in how knowledge of the genome in dwindling dove populations can help support this declining species.