Monday, September 26, 2011

Jumping Genes Capture Deep Relationships between Parrots and Songbirds

Earlier this year a study was conducted by scientist at Munster University to try and track the genetic history of the superior vocal abilities of certain bird species. Suprisingly, bird and humans share many higher cognitive functions (for example: color vision, superior vocal abilities, memory, etc.); therefore by studying the ancestry of the higher cognitive functions of birds, scientists might gather more information on similar functions possessed by humans. The study conducted was prompted by information collected during an experiment three years ago in which a group of scientists examined 32 kilobases of nuclear DNA sequences for 169 species of birds (representing all major extant avian groups) and found that the song birds (Passerines) closest relative was in fact, not other birds that were physically similar to it) but the parrot (Pstittacine). The new project was based off of the hypothesis that the similarities between pstittacine and passerine families could be explained by retroposons. The experiment tracked the presence or absence of two retroposed elements: chicken repeat 1 CR1 and LTRs of endogenous retroviruses. The results indicated that a avian family tree could be constructed based on the absence or presence of these retroposons. This new family tree showed a strong relationship between sriemas, falcons, pstittacines, and passerines.

No comments:

Post a Comment