Our paper describing our effort to sequence and characterize the genome of the white-throated sparrow is now online at Current Biology. This paper pairs long term field data collected by our collaborator Elaina Tuttle and her colleagues with our recently collected genomic data. These unusual sparrows occur in two morphs, and we document near perfect disassortative mating among morphs. We describe the genomic underpinnings of the two morphs, and the genomic consequences of this unusual pattern of mating.
Master's student Dustin Foote has put together, and is giving, a series of lectures at Sylvan Heights Bird Park. The talks cover a variety of topics from "Gardening for Birds" to "Avian Pirates" (brood parasitic birds!).
The first meeting of our NSF Research Coordination Network is now in the books after a wonderful but intense weekend at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. Workshops on genome annotation and the compilation, integration and management of the extensive manakin field and genomic data, were a great success. Plans were hatched for leveraging such information towards future synthetic research. New friends and colleagues abound!
Our study on white-throated sparrows, recently published in Current Biology, has been featured in a Science "Perspective". The piece highlights similarities and differences between white-throated sparrows and ruffs, another system in which a supergene has just been described. Both supergenes result in the maintenance of distinctive behavioral morphs within each species, and both are caused by chromosomal inversions. Because the sparrow supergene is carried by both morphs, and males of one morph always mate with females of the other morph, this results in a situation akin to having four sexes. Although these birds a quite unusual, these examples highlight some of the genetic mechanisms that can facilitate adaptive divergence within a species.
lots of self promotion today. zebra finches on the cover! g3journal.org photo by @lansverk #BALALAB
PhD Student Dan Newhouse has received a Sigma Xi Grant in Aid of Research. Congrats Dan!
In a collaborative effort led by Sonal Singhal, Ellen Leffler and Molly Przeworski, we detailed the recombination landscape in zebra finches and their close relatives. In doing so we've demonstrated that even in the absence of the PRDM9 gene, songbirds do possess recombination hotspots. In the absence of PRDM9, however, hotspots are conserved over large evolutionary distances, unlike what has been observed in primates.
This review paper stems from a recent working group at Nescent. Sadly, it was among the last of the working groups before NeSCent was shuttered! Our group was loftily titled "Toward a unified evolutionary theory of decision making in animals". In this review, we make the case that systems thinking and approaches have been useful in a diversity of biological fields, and that animal signaling research likewise benefit. We introduce systems thinking, introduce and clarify terminology, and describe how systems approaches might be applied.