News Round-Up

Bird genes are multitaskers, say scientists


Scientists from the University of Sheffield have found that although male and female birds have an almost identical set of genes, they function differently in each sex through a mechanism called alternative splicing.

Males and females of the same bird species can be strikingly different. For example, in addition to fundamental differences in reproduction, the sexes can show profound variation in behavior, colouration, metabolism, disease incidence and life history. The team wanted to understand how these remarkable differences develop despite males and females sharing mostly the same DNA.

Thea Rogers, PhD student at the University of Sheffield and lead author of the study, said: “One notable example of differences between male and female birds is in the peafowl, peacocks have magnificent plumage, whereas the female peahen is relatively dull. The peacock’s long tail and bright colours evolved to help them attract mates, but having such eye-catching looks can come with negatives such as making them more noticeable to predators. MORE