Forty spotted pardalote and manna gum: joining the spots to save an Australian endangered bird species
Understanding how flora and fauna interact across both ecological and evolutionary time scales represents a major challenge that is fundamental for biodiversity conservation.
My PhD project will address this issue by investigating what drives variation availability and quality of food for one of Australia’s most endangered birds, the forty-spotted pardalote (Pardalotus quadragintus). The forty-spotted pardalote relies on manna, a sugary exudate produced by manna gum (Eucalyptus viminalis). Manna is a key resource for a range of woodland birds, however, the forty-spotted pardalote is the only species that actively stimulates manna production through its unique mining behaviours. This interaction could have a range of cascading effects on other species, communities and even the wider ecosystem. Thus it is critical to understand what factors underpin variation in manna quantity and quality, and how these factors drive pardalote behaviour, fitness and ultimately the community more broadly.