Thursday, November 19, 2015

Breeding Behavior Patterns Determined by a Supergene

You wouldn't generally think that the way in which a male attracts a female is predisposed, would you?  Well according to researchers from the University of Sheffield this behavior is determined by a specific gene sequence in the wading bird, referred to as ruff.  They have identified the genes that determine the behavior patterns in this specific animal.
There behavior can follow one of three patterns: territorial males, non-territorial (satellite) males, or the "cross-dresser" males.  The study shows that these breeding behaviors are encoded by a "supergene", which is defined in the article as a "section of a chromosome containing a hundred or more genes".  It apparently started off as allowing males to mimic females in order to coexist with territorial males.
The author of the study says that this supergene process is "similar to the one that led to the evolution of separate sex chromosome, and indeed the alternative forms of the supergene combined to create the third type of bird personality" (the satellite male).

I found this article very intriguing, as a psychology major, learning about behaviors and patterns of behavior within individuals whether human or not, I have never heard of a specific breeding behavior being genetically determined.  Also, the concept of a "supergene" is quite interesting, and how researchers say that this is the same process that occurred when the two separate sex chromosomes were established.

Original Article

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