The curious case of the Dodo: Leveraging the Nicobar pigeon genome to resurrect this long-extinct bird

Date: Monday, January 11, 2016
Time: 6:50 PM
Room: Royal Palm Salon 1-2
Beth Shapiro , Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
The Nicobar pigeon, Caloenas nicobarica, is among the most ornate of pigeons. Although it is threatened by human population growth and the colonization of their native habitats by invasive predators, the Nicobar pigeon has an extensive breeding range that spans the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India to offshore islands of Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam. This large range is maintained by their strong capacity for flight; Nicobar pigeons roam in large flocks from island to island, usually sleeping on offshore islets where no predators occur. Although they are strong flyers, the ancestors of present-day Nicobar pigeons gave rise to at least two now-extinct species of flightless pigeon: the dodo, Raphus cuculattus, of Mauritius Island, and the solitaire, Pezophaps solitaria, of Rodrigues Island. We present a new, high quality Nicobar pigeon genome and genomic data from both the dodo and solitaire. Using a comparative genomics approach, our goal is to identify regions of the genome that may be associated with some of the strangest characteristics of the two extinct pigeons, including loss of flight, paedomorphy, and looking silly.