Article: article from journal or magazin.
Review (review): journal as complete as possible of one specific subject, written based on exhaustive analyses from published work.
Genetics of colouration in birds.
Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology
Establishing the links between phenotype and genotype is of great importance for resolving key questions about the evolution, maintenance and adaptive function of phenotypic variation. Bird colouration is one of the most studied systems to investigate the role of natural and sexual selection in the evolution of phenotypic diversity. Given the recent advances in molecular tools that allow discovering genetic polymorphisms and measuring gene and protein expression levels, it is timely to review the literature on the genetics of bird colouration. The present study shows that melanin-based colour phenotypes are often associated with mutations at melanogenic genes. Differences in melanin-based colouration are caused by switches of eumelanin to pheomelanin production or by changes in feather keratin structure, melanoblast migration and differentiation, as well as melanosome structure. Similar associations with other types of colourations are difficult to establish, because our knowledge about the molecular genetics of carotenoid-based and structural colouration is quasi inexistent. This discrepancy stems from the fact that only melanin-based colouration shows pronounced heritability estimates, i.e. the resemblance between related individuals is usually mainly explained by genetic factors. In contrast, the expression of carotenoid-based colouration is phenotypically plastic with a high sensitivity to variation in environmental conditions. It therefore appears that melanin-based colour traits are prime systems to understand the genetic basis of phenotypic variation. In this context, birds have a great potential to bring us to new frontiers where many exciting discoveries will be made on the genetics of phenotypic traits, such as colouration. In this context, a major goal of our review is to suggest a number of exciting future avenues.
Colouration, Birds, Melanin, Quantitative genetics, Phenotypic plasticity, Phenotype canalization
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