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Bmp4 and Morphological Variation of Beaks in Darwin's Finches

Science  03 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5689, pp. 1462-1465
DOI: 10.1126/science.1098095

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Abstract

Darwin's finches are a classic example of species diversification by natural selection. Their impressive variation in beak morphology is associated with the exploitation of a variety of ecological niches, but its developmental basis is unknown. We performed a comparative analysis of expression patterns of various growth factors in species comprising the genus Geospiza. We found that expression of Bmp4 in the mesenchyme of the upper beaks strongly correlated with deep and broad beak morphology. When misexpressed in chicken embryos, Bmp4 caused morphological transformations paralleling the beak morphology of the large ground finch G. magnirostris.

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