First songbird genome sequenced


First songbird genome sequenced

Apr 05, 2010
By staff
Swindon, Wiltshire, U.K. -- The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) announces that a united effort by teams across the United States, Europe and the Middle East has produced the first songbird genome map -- that of the zebra finch.

This is the second bird genome to be sequenced; the first was a chicken. The research is published in the April 1, 2010, issue of Nature.

According to the BBRSC, the researchers think the zebra finch’s genome map will reveal insights into four areas that can impact both birds and people. The first is learning and memory. Songbirds, like people and unlike most other animals, are able to converse with one another. The researchers will be able to compare the chicken genome to the zebra finch genome to pinpoint areas involved in vocal learning since chickens are unable to communication vocally.

The second area is variation and evolution. The researchers will be able to look at which genes are responsible for a large diversity in plumage, song, and behavior. And this research will be more applicable to other bird species since zebra finches are more representative of most birds compared with chickens. This research could help with threatened bird species.

Immunity is a third focus area. In the process of gene mapping, the researchers discovered the colony stimulating factor 1 protein (CSF1), a gene thought to be missing in birds but that is found in mammals and is related to fighting infection. This discovery may reveal new ways to produce vaccines for birds.

Finally, the researchers anticipate insight into fertility. During the mapping of the zebra finch’s genome, the researchers found a genetic component related to sperm length and speed, which they think could lead to advances in human fertility.