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B413: Evolution of red carotenoid coloration in birds (Lead Supervisor: Nick Mundy, Zoology)

Supervisor: Nick Mundy (Zoology)  

Importance of the area of research:

The project is important for understanding both mechanisms of sexual selection and the generation of biodiversity. The identification of a gene involved in a prominent sexually-selected trait offers novel insights into the mechanisms of signal honesty

Project summary:

The project builds on our recent discovery of a gene (CYP2J19) underlying bright red carotenoid coloration in songbirds. CYP2J19 is required to convert dietary yellow carotenoids into red carotenoids. The project will investigate whether the same genetic mechanism is responsible for red coloration in other avian groups. It will also investigate why birds differ in the site of conversion of dietary carotenoids.

What the student will do:

Labwork will investigate the number of copies of the CYP2J19 and the pattern of expression of CYP2J19 in different avian groups. Some fieldwork to collect samples will be possible.

Please contact the lead supervisor directly for further information relating to what the successful applicant will be expected to do, training to be provided, and any specific educational background requirements.

References:

Mundy, N. I. et al. 2016. Red carotenoid coloration in the zebra finch is controlled by a cytochrome P450 gene cluster. Current Biology vol. 26, 1435-1440. DOI: 10.106/j.cub.2016.04.047

Twyman, H., Valenzuela, N., Literman, R., Andersson, S. and N. I. Mundy. 2016. Seeing red to being red: conserved genetic mechanism for red cone oil droplets and co-option for red coloration in birds and turtles. Proceedings of the Roya lSociety Series B vol. 283, 20161208. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2016.1208

Follow this link to find out about applying for this project.

Other projects available from the Lead Supervisor can be viewed here.

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