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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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ScienceShot: High-Performance Pigeons Have a Dirty Little Secret
19 January 2012 12:00 pm
The high-stakes world of domestic pigeon breeding is reflected in its finely tuned racers and the outrageous plumage of its show birds. Now, new research shows surprising connections between very different-looking breeds, as well as evidence of liaisons between racing pigeons and feral populations of the motley city pigeon. In a study published today in Current Biology, researchers propose a family tree for domestic pigeon breeds. Analyzing repeating sequences of DNA called microsatellites, the scientists were able to figure out that the 70 pigeon breeds they studied fell into two groups. Pigeons with fantails, manes, and exaggerated crops (outgrowths of the esophagus) were closely related, while the acrobatic breeds, homing pigeons, and breeds with the smallest and largest beaks filled out the second group. The scientists also found that wayward racing pigeons were breeding with feral populations. The researchers will use this web of relatedness to help them answer broader questions on how changes in an organism's genetic blueprint give rise to physical traits like color or the size of limbs. Domestic pigeons are ideally suited for this kind of study, the scientists write, because they are incredibly diverse and are still able to interbreed.
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