Birds-of-paradise new genome research


This video is called National Geographic Documentary: Amazing BIRDS OF PARADISE 2016.

From GigaScience:

Birds-of-paradise genomes target sexual selection

New genomic data from 5 birds-of-paradise reveal genes that are shaped by selection and help explain the origin of their spectacular plumage

January 28, 2019

Summary: Researchers provide genome sequences for 5 birds-of-paradise species: 3 without previous genome data and 2 with improved data. Birds-of-paradise are classic examples of extreme sexual selection due to generations of females choosing mates based on ‘attractiveness’. The result is unparalleled species radiation with males exhibiting vast differences in behavior and an array of exotic feathers. Analyses identified genes potentially involved in feather characteristics, and the sequences will serve as a rich resource for evolution studies.

A new study published in the open access journal GigaScience explores the genomes of a fascinating group of birds, birds-of-paradise, with work providing genome sequences from 5 birds-of-paradise species: 3 that did not have available genome sequences. Birds-of-paradise, with their elaborate and colorful feathers as well as complex courtship displays, have a special place in natural history. They serve as a school-book example of sexual selection, which is the outcome of generations of female mate choice of males that have “attractive” features. The result is an unparalleled radiation of species where males exhibit extreme morphological features and behaviors with no other evolutionary meaning than to attract females for mating. However, very little is known about the genetic variants that distinguish the lavishly colored birds-of-paradise from their less conspicuous relatives, such as the collared flycatcher. Whole genome availability of multiple species provides a rich resource for molecular evolutionary to identify genes that came under the influence of sexual selection, and a way to assess how these genes transformed the males’ plumage into a colorful asset for mating purposes.

The famous evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) once said about the birds-of-paradise: “Every ornithologist and birdwatcher has his favourite group of birds. Frankly, my own are the birds of paradise and bowerbirds. If they do not rank as high in world-wide popularity as they deserve it is only because so little is known about them.”

Taking on the task of addressing the limited amount of information available for these exotic birds were researchers from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, American scientists, and first author Stefan Prost from the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt. They selected three species that did not yet have available genomes sequences: the paradise crow (Lycocorax pyrrhopterus) from Obi Island in Indonesia; the paradise riflebird (Ptiloris paradiseus) from New South Wales, Australia; and the huon astrapia (Astrapia rothschildi) from Papua New Guinea. They further provided new genome sequence data to improve currently available genomic information for two other birds-of-paradise species from Papua New Guinea: the King of Saxony bird-of-paradise (Pteridophora alberti) and the red bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rubra).

Martin Irestedt, senior curator at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, said that “Birds-of-paradise constitute one of the most famous examples on how sexual selection has driven the evolution of male plumage ornamentation and mating behaviors to its extreme. It is thus extremely exciting that we are able to present genomic data that provide the first glimpse to how genomic evolution is linked to the extraordinary phenotypic variation found in this fascinating group of birds.”

Using these five bird-of-paradise datasets, Prost and colleagues identified genes that show signs of past influence of selection and evolution, some of which appear to be important for coloration, morphology, and feather and eye development. For example, they identified a gene called ADAMTS20 that is potentially involved in producing the exquisite birds-of-paradise colorful feathers. ADAMTS20 is known to influence the development of melanocytes, specialized cells for the production of pigmentation patterns.

Thanks to modern genomics and the availability of these new datasets in the GigaScience DataBase, GigaDB, we are about to learn much more about these fascinating animals.

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Himalayan marmots, new research


This October 2015 video says about itself:

On the way to Pangong Lake, Ladakh, India, Himalayan marmots (Marmota himalayana) can be seen in the alpine grass lands. They live in colonies and in deep burrows. Himalayan marmots are large squirrels. Globally there are 15 species of marmots, out of which 2 species are found in India. These are very friendly wild animals. I enjoyed it a lot. Dr M.C.Porwal.

From ScienceDaily:

Himalayan marmot genome offers clues to life at extremely high altitudes

December 20, 2018

Himalayan marmots can survive at altitudes up to 5,000 meters in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Pakistan and on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of China, where many of them face extreme cold, little oxygen, and few other resources. Now, researchers have sequenced the first complete Himalayan marmot genome, which may help them to better explain how the marmots live in such extremes.

The findings, which appear December 20 in the journal iScience, hint at the genetic mechanisms underlying high-altitude adaptation and hibernation, the researchers say. They also serve as a valuable resource for researchers studying marmot evolution, highland disease, and cold adaptation.

“As one of the highest-altitude-dwelling mammals, the Himalayan marmot is chronically exposed to cold temperature, hypoxia, and intense UV radiation,” said Enqi Liu of Xi’an Jiaotong University Health Science Center in China. “They also hibernate for more than six months during the wintertime.”

Those striking biological features led Liu and his team, including first author Liang Bai, to consider the Himalayan marmot as an ideal animal model for studying the molecular mechanisms of adaptation to extreme environments. To begin, they sequenced and assembled a complete draft genome of a male Himalayan marmot. They also re-sequenced 20 other Himalayan marmots, including individuals living at high and low altitudes, and four other marmot species. Additionally, RNA sequencing was done to compare gene-expression differences between marmots in a state of torpor and awake marmots.

The DNA data show that the Himalayan marmot diverged from the Mongolian marmot about 2 million years ago. The researchers identified two genes, Slc25a14 and ?Aamp (a processed pseudogene), that have been selected in different directions in marmots living at low versus high altitudes, suggesting they are related to survival in high-altitude populations under conditions of extremely low oxygen.

They further suggest that Slc25a14 may have an important neuroprotective role. The shift in ?Aamp affects the stability of RNA encoding the gene Aamp, which may be a protective strategy to prevent the excess growth of new blood vessels under extremely low-oxygen conditions.

The RNA sequencing data show that gene-expression changes occur in the liver and brain during hibernation. These include genes in the fatty acid metabolism pathway as well as blood clotting and stem cell differentiation.

Interestingly, a previous study suggested that because the hibernator’s brain is exposed to near-freezing temperatures and has decreased blood flow, there is an increased risk of blood clots, the researchers note. Their brain stem cells may also be better prepared to repair injuries as an adaptation needed to survive extreme environmental stresses.

The researchers say they plan to continue improving the quality of the Himalayan marmot’s genome. They note that the Himalayan marmot is also known for being highly susceptible to woodchuck hepatitis virus and is a natural host and transmitter of the plague to humans.

“We will elucidate the immune system features responsible for the hepatitis virus and bacterial infection,” Liu said.

Eurasian wryneck camouflage, video


This video says about itself:

This Woodpecker Mimics a Snake When Threatened | Nat Geo Wild

23 September 2018

When threatened, the Eurasian wryneck bends and twists its head as if placing us under a spell. These birds were once thought to wield magical powers and to play a role in witchcraft.

Giant catfish babies in Asia


This 6 September 2018 video says about itself:

Searching for Giant Catfish Babies on the Mekong | Nat Geo Wild

Follow National Geographic Explorer and fish biologist Zeb Hogan as he surveys the Mekong for tiny fish babies.

For the first time, scientists decipher the entire genome of the striped catfish, paving the way for better breeding of the critical commercial species: here.