New genomic data from 5 birds-of-paradise reveal genes that are shaped by selection and help explain the origin of their spectacular plumage
Date: January 28, 2019
A new study published in the open access journal GigaScience explores the genomes of a fascinating group of birds, birds-of-paradise, with work providing genome sequences from 5 birds-of-paradise species: 3 that did not have available genome sequences. Birds-of-paradise, with their elaborate and colorful feathers as well as complex courtship displays, have a special place in natural history. They serve as a school-book example of sexual selection, which is the outcome of generations of female mate choice of males that have "attractive" features. The result is an unparalleled radiation of species where males exhibit extreme morphological features and behaviors with no other evolutionary meaning than to attract females for mating. However, very little is known about the genetic variants that distinguish the lavishly colored birds-of-paradise from their less conspicuous relatives, such as the collared flycatcher. Whole genome availability of multiple species provides a rich resource for molecular evolutionary to identify genes that came under the influence of sexual selection, and a way to assess how these genes transformed the males' plumage into a colorful asset for mating purposes.