Invasive Indian myna parasites could threaten south-east Queensland native birds, research finds

Posted October 22, 2015 14:38:58

Exotic diseases carried by the invasive Indian myna bird could help it establish itself over native Australian wildlife, new research has found.

Australian wildlife has long been struggling with the introduced species, known to chase away native wildlife and steal nesting spots.

But a new study has discovered the birds could pose a threat beyond the tussle for territory — by spreading the avian malaria parasite.

The study looked at more than 260 mynas caught across south-east Queensland, together with published data on more than 3,000 mynas and native birds across the region.

Griffith University PhD researcher Nicholas Clark said up to 40 per cent of the pest species carry the parasite in south-east Queensland.

“We did find that mynas in Australia carry a very broad range of malaria parasites and they carry a much higher prevalence of malaria than most native Australian birds,” he said.

“We suspected that they were able to carry a lot of strains of malaria.

“They might gain an advantage over native birds in Australia that aren’t used to carrying that many strains.”

Native Australian birds are particularly at risk from avian malaria.

“Those exotic strains are a bit of a worry,” Mr Clark said.

“Some of these strains are the exact ones that have been linked to declines of birds in Hawaii and New Zealand.”

Mr Clark said avian malaria was not a risk to humans as different types of animals have different strains.

“Reptiles have their own, birds have their own and humans have our own so there’s no transfer there,” he said.

“But they are more of a threat to native wildlife and they can infect domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys.”

Mr Clark said the findings highlighted the many indirect impacts pest animals had, beyond the battle for territory.

“I think we need to shift towards a broader investigation of the impacts of invasive species,” he said.

The research has been published in the International Journal for Parasitology.

Topics: pests, animals, birds, regional, research, southport-4215, brisbane-4000, maroochydore-4558, toowoomba-4350

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