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.