Monday, March 08, 2021

Sexiest birds on the planet - Manakins have the best moves

Elizabeth Pennisi describes reports from a recent virtual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology on the genetic underpinnings of the elaborate plumage and dance displays of Ecuador's club winged manakin, products of sexual selection:
For a glimpse of the power of sexual selection, the dance of the golden-collared manakin is hard to beat. They court with their flashy plumage, loud wing clapping, and acrobatic leaps and twists to gain the fussy female's favor. (As biologists have understood since Charles Darwin, such exhibitionism evolves when females choose to mate with males that have the most extravagant appearances and displays—a proxy for fitness.) Now, by studying the genomes of the golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus) and its relatives, researchers are exploring the genes that drive these elaborate behaviors and traits. With four manakin genomes, and two already published, researchers are now able to describe the genetic underpinnings behind some of the birds' displays. In addition, by mapping traits and genes onto the manakin family tree, researchers are beginning to trace the stepwise genetic changes that led to the most elaborate displays and determine whether sexual selection works differently from natural selection.

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