As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Ruff sex is hereditary

Discovery finds mating patterns of rare bird species determined by genetics
May 26th, 2014 by Micaela Evans

From one of the world’s largest ruff aviaries perched atop Burnaby mountain, SFU researcher David Lank has come across a crucial discovery that genetics — not environmental factors — drive courtship and mating practices in these unique birds.

Lank, an SFU research associate and adjunct professor of biological sciences, has spent three decades studying the unique mating patterns of the male ruff bird, a type of sandpiper originally from Finland. These birds, bred by Lank in the aviaries at SFU, are the only known ruffs in North America. 

Lank was originally drawn to these birds because of the mating patterns specific to their species. The males are unique in that they belong to one of three distinct groups, each with their own behavioural patterns in regards to mating. However, unlike most animals, these differences in mating are not a result of their environment, nor a result of different stages of development. Instead, they are a result of genetic variants in the three types of the male ruff birds.

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