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In Darwin’s Footsteps: A Shared Genetic Control for Beak and Toe Size in Domestic Pigeons (Columba livia)

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Bailey Young

Domestic rock pigeons (Columba livia) display an incredible amount of variation among different breeds. Even though they can look and act differently, these breeds all belong to the same species. We are therefore able to breed individuals with very different traits and perform genetic mapping. For example, variation at a locus on Chromosome Z, ROR2, is linked to beak size. In The Variation of Plants and Animals Under Domestication, Darwin observed that the data he collected "indicate pretty plainly some kind of correlation between the length of the beak and the size of the feet". The goal of my research is to determine whether there is a shared genetic control of foot size and beak size in domestic rock pigeons. First, I collected limb length measurements from the F2 generation of a cross between a Homer (medium beaked) and an Old German Owl (small beaked) pigeon. This cross segregates different beak lengths so it presents an ideal opportunity to test for associations between beak and toe lengths. My data confirmed that foot and beak size are indeed associated. Next, I used quantitative trait locus (QTL) mapping and found that toe size is controlled by at least two genetic loci, one of which maps to the same genomic region that controls beak length. Therefore, it is likely that toe size and beak length have a shared genetic control or are controlled by closely linked genes. Thus, variation in one genomic region - and possibly one gene - can potentially lead to coordinated changes in seemingly unrelated anatomical structures.
University / Institution: University of Utah
Type: Oral
Format: In Person
SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Area of Research: Science & Technology
Faculty Mentor: Mike Shapiro
Location: Union Building, SALTAIR ROOM (2:45)