University of Utah
Host: Molly Przeworski
Title: Fancy feet and a checkered past: genetics of diversity in the rock pigeon
Abstract: The rock pigeon (Columba livia) is among the most phenotypically diverse and widely distributed avian species in the world. We are combining traditional genetics, whole-genome sequencing, and developmental analyses to understand the evolution of diversity among the hundreds of breeds within this species. In doing so, we are addressing fundamental questions about the genetic architecture of phenotypic change. In particular, our combined approach is revealing a spectrum of mutations that control the orientation, color, and placement of plumage within and among breeds. For example, we find that variation in two key transcription factors leads to a partial change in limb identity, resulting in the replacement of scales by feathers on the feet. We also find a surprising evolutionary origin for a putatively adaptive color pattern.