First emu ‘gender reveal’ on the horizon - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Accessibility links

USC News

First emu ‘gender reveal’ on the horizon

23 Oct 2019

Eleven baby emus emerged from eggs at USC Sunshine Coast campus at the weekend, as researchers worked on a technique that could end the emu gender guessing game.

USC PhD student Clancy Hall, supervised by Dr Gabriel Conroy, has been working on a way to determine genetic sex in the notoriously dark and thickly-shelled eggs of the cassowary and emu, and she’s getting close to an answer.

“The technologies are already out there for sexing of bird eggs through DNA blood testing, but the problem is you can’t see the vascular system in emu and cassowary eggs because of the dark nature of their shells,” Ms Hall said.

So, while this year’s brood was a lucky dip, she says they are hopeful of having a technique ready to predict the genetic sex of next year’s nest, due in May depending on the rainfall.

“It comes down to a new way we use light on the eggshell to illuminate a blood vessel from which a small blood sample is taken for DNA analysis,” she said.

In particular, she hopes the work will assist in the fight to protect the Southern Cassowary and the Coastal Emu, which are endangered species.

“There are only 40 to 100 Coastal Emus in Central and Northern New South Wales, so this technique could help build a robust captive insurance population to later return to improved areas of wild habitat” Ms Hall said.

“Conservation management requires strategy to maximise the sustainability of the population. In captivity, the recommended ratio for cassowary is one female to two males so she can select her mate, so the goal is to ethically hatch a desired sex.”

Ms Hall said her work stemmed from a passion for Australia ratites, which have been walking this planet for about 60 million years.

“We are really happy with how it’s going. It’s something I have been thinking about for years so it’s nice to do some formal trials.”

A link to the research is here.

The research was an example of numerous animal ecology projects at USC aimed at boosting populations under threat.

USC rates ‘well-above world standard” for ecology and zoology research in the Excellence in Research for Australia evaluation by the Australian Research Council.

Related articles

Professor Jeanine Young, left, and PhD student Rebecca Shipstone
Disadvantage and adversity behind high sudden infant death rate
17 Feb 2021

Queensland’s first large-scale study of all sudden infant deaths to date has identified key factors contributing to the state’s persistently high annual death rate of babies.

Healthy ageing research has global potential
17 Mar 2021

USC’s increased research focus on healthy ageing could help the Sunshine Coast region become a key test environment for strategies that improve the lives of elderly people around the world.

Seaweed quadruples fish immunity, study finds
29 Apr 2021

USC scientists have found they can quadruple the immune response of farmed fish by adding powdered seaweed to their diet.

Contact the USC media team

Name Position Email Phone
Terry Walsh Manager, Media and Messaging twalsh@usc.edu.au +61 7 5430 1160
Clare McKay Media Relations Officer (Regional) cmckay@usc.edu.au +61 7 5456 5669

Search results for

Recent news