Genomic resources for the endangered Hawaiian honeycreepers.


BACKGROUND: The Hawaiian honeycreepers are an avian adaptive radiation containing many endangered and extinct species. They display a dramatic range of phenotypic variation and are a model system for studies of evolution, conservation, disease dynamics and population genetics. Development of a genome-scale resources for this group would augment the quality of research focusing on Hawaiian honeycreepers and facilitate comparative avian genomic research. RESULTS: We assembled the genome sequence of a Hawaii amakihi (Hemignathus virens),and identified ~3.9 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the genome. Using the amakihi genome as a reference, we also identified ~156,000 SNPs in RAD tag (restriction site associated DNA) sequencing of five honeycreeper species (palila [Loxioides bailleui], Nihoa finch [Telespiza ultima], iiwi [Vestiaria coccinea], apapane [Himatione sanguinea], and amakihi). SNPs are distributed throughout the amakihi genome, and the individual sequenced shows several large regions of low heterozygosity on chromosomes 1, 5, 6, 8 and 11. SNPs from RAD tag sequencing were also found throughout the genome but were found to be more densely located on microchromosomes, apparently a result of differential distribution of the particular site recognized by restriction enzyme BseXI. CONCLUSIONS: The amakihi genome sequence will be useful for comparative avian genomics research and provides a significant resource for studies in such areas as disease ecology, evolution, and conservation genetics. The genome sequences will enable mapping of transcriptome data for honeycreepers and comparison of gene sequences between avian taxa. Researchers will be able to use the large number of SNP markers to genotype honeycreepers in regions of interest or across the whole genome. There are enough markers to enable use of methods such as genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that will allow researchers to make connections between phenotypic diversity of honeycreepers and specific genetic variants. Genome-wide markers will also help resolve phylogenetic and population genetic questions in honeycreepers.





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Publication Info

Callicrate, Taylor, Rebecca Dikow, James W Thomas, James C Mullikin, Erich D Jarvis, Robert C Fleischer and undefined NISC Comparative Sequencing Program (2014). Genomic resources for the endangered Hawaiian honeycreepers. BMC Genomics, 15. p. 1098. 10.1186/1471-2164-15-1098 Retrieved from

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Erich David Jarvis

Adjunct Professor in the Deptartment of Neurobiology

Dr. Jarvis' laboratory studies the neurobiology of vocal communication. Emphasis is placed on the molecular pathways involved in the perception and production of learned vocalizations. They use an integrative approach that combines behavioral, anatomical, electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques. The main animal model used is songbirds, one of the few vertebrate groups that evolved the ability to learn vocalizations. The generality of the discoveries is tested in other vocal learning orders, such as parrots and hummingbirds, as well as non-vocal learners, such as pigeons and non-human primates. Some of the questions require performing behavior/molecular biology experiments in freely ranging animals, such as hummingbirds in tropical forest of Brazil. Recent results show that in songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds, perception and production of song are accompanied by anatomically distinct patterns of gene expression. All three groups were found to exhibit vocally-activated gene expression in exactly 7 forebrain nuclei that are very similar to each other. These structures for vocal learning and production are thought to have evolved independently within the past 70 million years, since they are absent from interrelated non-vocal learning orders. One structure, Area X of the basal ganglia's striatum in songbirds, shows large differential gene activation depending on the social context in which the bird sings. These differences may reflect a semantic content of song, perhaps similar to human language.

The overall goal of the research is to advance knowledge of the neural mechanisms for vocal learning and basic mechanisms of brain function. These goals are further achieved by combined collaborative efforts with the laboratories of Drs. Mooney and Nowicki at Duke University, who study respectively behavior and electrophysiological aspects of songbird vocal communication.

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