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.
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.
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!
This award will support Master's student Dustin Foote's efforts to develop a "Speciation in Brood Parasites" Exhibit at Sylvan Height's Bird Park
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.