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.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Variations of a single gene drive diverse pigeon feather patterns



The gene has unexpected links to vision defects in humans

Date:  July 17, 2018
Source:  University of Utah

Summary:
Biologists have discovered that different versions of a single gene, called NDP (Norrie Disease Protein), have unexpected links between color patterns in pigeons, and vision defects in humans. These gene variations were likely bred into pigeons by humans from a different pigeon species and are now evolutionarily advantageous in wild populations of feral pigeons living in urban environments.

In a new study, a team led by University of Utah biologists has discovered that different versions of a single gene, called NDP (Norrie Disease Protein), have unexpected links between color patterns in pigeons, and vision defects in humans. These gene variations were likely bred into pigeons by humans from a different pigeon species and are now evolutionarily advantageous in wild populations of feral pigeons living in urban environments.

The U biologists analyzed the genomes of domestic rock pigeons (Columba livia) to determine the mutations that govern the four fundamental color patterns on pigeon wing feathers. They compared the default, ancestral "bar" pattern, named for the horizontal black stripes near the wing tips, against the slightly darker "checker" pattern, the darkest "T-check" pattern, and the lightest "barless" pattern.

They found that a DNA sequence near the NDP gene was very different between bar birds and both T-check and checker birds. In addition, some of the T-check and checker pigeons have more copies of a stretch of DNA near the gene, resulting in even more pigment in their feathers. In all cases, the gene sequence itself is unaltered. In contrast, the least pigmented barless birds had a mutation in the gene sequence itself, which could affect its function.


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