Evolutionary genetics of avian coloration - hormonal mechanisms of sexual colour differences Colour differences between the sexes are very common in birds and include iconic examples such as the peacock. Remarkably little is known about how this variation is regulated at the level of the feather and beak. The project will identify changes in gene expression that underlie the different colours of males and females, in galliform and passerine birds. Key questions that will be addressed are the role of hormone receptors in mediating colour changes, and how hormonal control interacts with the gene networks responsible for deposition of pigments (melanins and carotenoids). The main methodology to be employed is RNA-Seq, giving excellent experience in this modern technology. The results will be of fundamental importance for understanding how sexual dimorphism is achieved and also for the molecular mechanisms underlying sexual selection.
- Walsh, N., Dale, J., McGraw, K. J., Pointer, M. A. and N. I. Mundy (2012) Candidate genes for carotenoid colouration in vertebrates and their expression profiles in the carotenoid-containing plumage and bill of a wild bird. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 279, 58-66.
- Nadeau, N. J., Burke, T. A. and N. I. Mundy (2007) Evolution of an avian pigmentation gene correlates with a measure of sexual selection. Proceedings of the Royal Society Series B 274, 1807-1813.