In DepthGenomics

Bird genomes give new perches to old friends

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Science  12 Dec 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6215, pp. 1275-1276
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6215.1275

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The placement of a strange South American bird called the hoatzin in the avian family tree is one of the many findings revealed this week from a massive international project analyzing the sequenced genomes of 48 bird species representing nearly every order of bird. The effort, involving 200 people from 80 labs and weeks of supercomputer time, has yielded the most definitive avian family tree yet. It has also pinpointed gene networks underlying the traits that make birds birds, such as feathers and beaks instead of teeth. In one provocative finding, a team has identified the gene network that underlies complex singing in birds—and found that the same network operates in humans, where it is presumably crucial to language. Already, 200 more bird genomes have been sequenced, with more waiting in the wings.