Mapping plumage traits in the zebra finch

Variation in pigmentation often underlies many tractable and interesting questions in evolutionary biology; such as speciation, adaptation and sexual selection. Understanding the genetic mechanisms underlying colour variation can provide great insight into the evolutionary processes governing this variation, how it arose and how it is maintained. Using an experimental cross and SNP genotyping we set out to identify the loci underlying three zebra finch plumage variants.

We chose three autosomal recessive zebra finch mutants – yellow beak, black cheek and penguin and crossed these with wild-type zebra finch. We have three generations of birds and have typed these with SNPs spread evenly across the genome. This data are currently being analysed – so watch this space.

Penguin male

Zebra finch mutant – Penguin male

Zebra finch mutants – Yellow beak (left) and Black cheek (right)

This project is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.