Navigation Links
Genetic secrets of the world's toughest little bird
Date:7/16/2013

Scientists from Griffith University have taken part in an international study which has revealed the genetic secrets of how a small bird can survive in one of the most hostile environments on earth.

The ground tit (Parus humilis), lives in the Tibetan plateau, the largest high-altitude land mass in the world. This study has found molecular signatures in the ground tit genome which reveal how it copes with the extreme living conditions of this habitat.

Professor David Lambert and Dr Sankar Subramanian from Griffith University's Environmental Futures Centre took part in the study.

"We have long known that these birds are well adapted to living with low oxygen levels, typical of high elevation, but until now we have had only a limited understanding of the genetic background of these adaptations," Dr Subramanian said.

"In this study we have identified the genetic modifications of the species which make this possible," he said.

Findings of the study gave been published in a paper entitled "Ground tit genome reveals avian adaptation to living at high altitudes in the Tibetan plateau" in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

Unlike its tree-dwelling relatives, the drab-coloured little songbird lives exclusively above the tree line at 3,300 to 5,400 m, on rocky steppes and grasslands of the Tibetan plateau. As a consequence of its location, it also behaves differently by foraging on the ground and digging burrows or tunnels for roosting and nesting. It looks different too with a longer, straighter bill, longer legs, larger body size and paler overall plumage.

Because of all these divergent characteristics, the ground tit was long considered to belong to the crow family. Only later was it was shown not to be not the world's smallest corvid, but rather the world's largest tit.

"Our genomic study further confirms this taxonomic conclusion. The ancestor of the ground tit split off from other tits between 7.7 and 9.9 million years ago," Dr Subramanian said.

The study also reveals how the ground tit genome can be characterised by a range of adaptations to the environment it calls home.

"One major adaptation is a positive selection for genes involved in hypoxia response and skeletal development, similar to those expressed in other organisms in high-altitude environments such as Tibet and the Andes," Dr Subramanian said.

"We have also found in this bird an expansion of genes involved in fatty acid metabolism in ground tits apparently to withstand the extreme cold," he said.

Another surprising adaptation has been the apparent loss of genes to provide immunity against pathogens, including viruses and bacteria.

"It is possible that this is because there are fewer microorganisms present in the Tibetan plateau and therefore a decreased risk of opportunistic infections," Dr Subramanian said.

And a reduced capacity to smell may well be another casualty of life on the Tibetan Plateau.

"This could be a consequence of the limited variety of scents to be found in the arid, alpine meadow environment, but that doesn't explain why the yak, a species that also inhabits the Tibetan Plateau, has an increased number of olfactory receptor genes compared with cattle," Dr Subramanian said.

"To fully understand the loss of olfactory receptor genes in the ground tit, further comparisons need to be made with genomes of closely related species inhabiting lower altitudes."

The genomic study of the ground tit provides new understanding of the unique adaptations necessary for a high-altitude environment, adding to knowledge of strategies for survival found in other high-altitude species.

More research will need to be done comparing genomes from closely related species inhabiting high altitudes and lowland environments to further explore the genetic foundation of these adaptations.


'/>"/>

Contact: Helen Wright
helen.wright@griffith.edu.au
047-840-6565
Griffith University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Nearby chimpanzee populations show much greater genetic diversity than distant human populations
2. Will a genetic mutation cause trouble? Ask Spliceman
3. UC Santa Barbara researchers discover genetic link between visual pathways of hydras and humans
4. Perception and preference may have genetic link to obesity
5. A foot in the door to genetic information
6. Genetic survey of endangered Antarctic blue whales shows surprising diversity
7. Epigenetic signatures direct the repair potential of reprogrammed cells
8. Epigenetics and epidemiology -- hip, hype and science
9. Genetic variation in East Asians found to explain resistance to cancer drugs
10. First complete full genetic map of promising energy crop
11. Genetic research develops tools for studying diseases, improving regenerative treatment
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/11/2016)... , March 11, 2016 http://www.apimages.com ) ... Cross reference: Picture is available at AP Images ( http://www.apimages.com ) ... DERMALOG will be used to produce the new refugee identity cards. ... biometric innovations, at CeBIT in Hanover next ... from DERMALOG will be used to produce the new refugee identity ...
(Date:3/10/2016)... BELL, Pa. , March 10, 2016   Unisys ... U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is testing its ... San Diego to help identify certain ... States . The test, designed to help determine the ... pedestrian environment, began in February and will run until May ...
(Date:3/9/2016)... Fla. , March 9, 2016  Crossmatch ... authentication and enrollment solutions, today announced the addition ... ® Altus multi-factor authentication platform. New ... InfoSec managers to step-up security where it,s needed ... Washington, DC . --> ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/4/2016)... ... May 05, 2016 , ... CereScan, ... the National Stroke Association during National Stroke Awareness Month in May. An ... pages throughout the month. CereScan will donate $1 up to a maximum ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... ... ... Proove Biosciences, Inc. , the commercial and research leader in personalized pain ... partnership is designed to advance research in pain genetics in an effort to bring ... new agreement, researchers at Proove Biosciences are able to collaborate with Luda Diatechnko, MD, ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... ... , ... The Children’s Tumor Foundation announced its annual month-long campaign to raise ... throughout the body. It affects 1 in 3,000 people of all populations; there is ... of May, as well as online activities, Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month and “I Know a ...
(Date:5/4/2016)... Kansas City, Missouri (PRWEB) , ... May 04, 2016 , ... ... President of Professional and Agricultural Sales. , Doug began his career at PBI-Gordon ... has since served in a wide variety of roles, ranging from customer service to ...
Breaking Biology Technology: