Abstract

Conservation efforts for the orange-bellied parrot (Neophema chrysogaster), one of the world's most critically endangered bird species, have been hampered by beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) spillover infection. To understand the vulnerability of orange-bellied parrots to potential reservoirs of infection we investigated geographic versus taxonomic structure in 160 full-genome and 319 partial Rep gene BFDV sequences from captive and wild orange-bellied parrots and other wild parrot species in Australia. We found that Australian BFDV populations are structured by host taxonomy. By identifying genetic stratification of BFDV in reservoir hosts we characterized three separate recent incursions of BFDV into orange-bellied parrots from other wild parrots, which demonstrates the susceptibility of critically endangered species to multiple threats of pathogen re-emergence. Our study highlighted how loss of endemic circulating BFDV in orange-bellied parrots precipitated repeated spillover into an immunologically naïve population, causing significant disease.

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