A new, critically endangered species of ground parrot has been identified in Western Australia by a team of Australian researchers involving DNA experts from the University of Adelaide.

The discovery makes the western ground parrot one of the world's rarest parrots, with just over 100 birds remaining in one known location in Cape Arid National Park on the state's south-west coast.

The team, led by Australian Wildlife Conservancy's Dr Stephen Murphy, used DNA from 27 museum specimens some up to 160 years old to reveal that populations of ground parrots in eastern and western Australia are highly distinct from each other and that the western populations should be recognized as a new species, Pezoporus flaviventris.

Dr Murphy analysed tissue, skin and blood samples in a Darwin laboratory, working with researchers in Canberra, Adelaide and Western Australia to identify 35 genetic differences between western ground parrots and a similar species found in coastal areas of eastern Australia and Tasmania.

"The Western Ground parrot has declined rapidly in the last 20 years, there are now only about 110 birds surviving in the wild and most of these are confined to a single national park. It is now one of the world's rarest birds," Murphy added.


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