The genetic underpinnings of bill length variation in great tits (Parus major)

J.E. Risse

Onderzoeksoutput: Bijdrage aan conferentiePosterWetenschappelijk

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Bird bills vary greatly in shape, size, and colour, both within and between species. Various studies have shown that bill length and shape is a true polygenic trait, with up to 100 different genes implicated. In great tits (Parus major) bill length differs across populations with longer bills in UK populations compared to continental (Dutch) birds. Previous work has shown bill size of UK birds to be under selection, which appears to be associated with feeding behaviour. GWAS has helped identify some genes involved in bill length variation, yet the underlying gene network is still poorly understood, but essential to predict responses to selection. Our research aims to understand how selection shapes a species' bill by studying the genetic and phenotypic variation in great tit bills using a multi-disciplinary and integrative approach. We use gene expression data from a selection experiment on bill size to identify the gene network involved in embryonal bill development as well as in adult bill renewal. We combine this with genotyping data of birds from our long-term wild study population to gain insights into the available genetic variation within the population and the effect of genetic variants on the phenotype. Integrating all this with fitness and behavioural information allows us to assess selection on a complex trait in a wild population and predict its potential for adaptation. Our multi-faceted approach takes the step from associations to understanding how genes, variants and environment shape bill phenotypes and how bills can evolve in a changing environment.
Originele taal-2Engels
StatusNiet gepubliceerd - 2019

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