A genetic signature of the evolution of loss of flight in the Galapagos cormorant

Alejandro Burga*, Weiguang Wang, Eyal Ben-David, Paul C. Wolf, Andrew M. Ramey, Claudio Verdugo, Karen Lyons, Patricia G. Parker, Leonid Kruglyak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations

Abstract

We have a limited understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of evolutionary changes in the size and proportion of limbs. We studied wing and pectoral skeleton reduction leading to flightlessness in the Galapagos cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi). We sequenced and de novo assembled the genomes of four cormorant species and applied a predictive and comparative genomics approach to find candidate variants that may have contributed to the evolution of flightlessness. These analyses and cross-species experiments in Caenorhabditis elegans and in chondrogenic cell lines implicated variants in genes necessary for transcriptional regulation and function of the primary cilium. Cilia are essential for Hedgehog signaling, and humans affected by skeletal ciliopathies suffer from premature bone growth arrest, mirroring skeletal features associated with loss of flight.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numberaal3345
JournalScience
Volume356
Issue number6341
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright 2016 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science; all rights reserved.

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