Genes controlling beak size and shape in Darwin's finches
Andersson, Leif Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University, and Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden.
Grant, Peter R. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
Grant, B. Rosemary Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
Lamichhaney, Sangeet Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Last reviewed:September 2017
- Evolutionary tree of the Darwin's finches
- The ALX1 locus and variation in beak shape
- The HMGA2 locus and control of beak size
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Millions of species make up the extraordinary variety of organisms on Earth. The evolutionary variety is displayed in miniature by several groups of animals and plants that have diversified rapidly. Among these is a group of 18 species called Darwin's finches, named after Charles Darwin, who collected specimens on his visit to the Galápagos archipelago in September 1835, and who made the first scientific observations on them. Since then, field studies have revealed that each species has a distinctive ecological niche and that variation in beak morphology is an important part of their ecological specialization (Fig. 1). Moreover, studies on embryos have revealed some genes that are expressed differently during the development of beaks of closely related species of ground finches with different beak morphology. For example, the gene encoding bone morphogenetic protein 4 (BMP4) produces a signaling molecule that has a prominent role in species with deep beaks. See also: Animal evolution; Aves; Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution; Ecological communities; Gene; Island biogeography; Oceanic islands as evolutionary laboratories; Organic evolution; Speciation
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