Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Save the parrots: Macaw genome sequenced

Date:
May 8, 2013
Source:
Texas A&M University
Summary:
In a groundbreaking move that provides new insight into avian evolution, biology and conservation, researchers have successfully sequenced the complete genome of a Scarlet macaw for the first time.

Scarlet macaws.
Credit: Vladimir Melnik / Fotolia

In a groundbreaking move that provides new insight into avian evolution, biology and conservation, researchers at Texas A&M University have successfully sequenced the complete genome of a Scarlet macaw for the first time.

Related Articles


The team was led by Drs. Christopher Seabury and Ian Tizard at the Schubot Exotic Bird Health Center in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M. Their work is published in the current issue of the open access and peer-reviewed scientific journal PLOS ONE.

The bird selected for the sequencing was a female named "Neblina" who lives in the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa. Neblina is believed to be from Brazil. She was confiscated during a raid on illegally imported exotic birds by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1995.

Tizard says that a blood sample was taken from Neblina, DNA was extracted for sequencing, and after a series of steps, the sequence of the genome was assembled by Seabury and his team.

"The final analysis showed that there are about one billion DNA bases in the genome, which is about one-third of that found in mammals," Tizard explains. "Birds have much less DNA than mammals primarily because they do not possess nearly as much repetitive DNA."

The final completed genome demonstrates some similarities to that of the chicken. "But there are significant differences at both the genome and biological level," he adds. For example, "Macaws can fly great distances, while chickens can't. In addition, brain development and volume are very different in macaws, which is unsurprising since they are very intelligent birds compared to chickens. Likewise, macaws can live many years, while chickens usually do not, and therefore, our macaw genome sequence may help shed light on the genetic factors that influence longevity and intelligence."

Tizard notes that a Scarlet macaw was selected for the first such sequencing of its type because Texas A&M researchers have been studying the bird for many years. Working primarily at the Tambopata Research Center in Peru, Texas A&M bird experts have been investigating macaw diseases, behavior and genetics.

"We now have the ability to initiate large-scale, genome-wide approaches for population and phylogeography studies," explains Seabury, who is a collaborator of Donald Brightsmith, director of the Tambopata Macaw Research Project in Peru.

Seabury and Brightsmith add that the array of research possibilities regarding the Scarlet Macaw has now been significantly broadened by this research initiative.

Macaws are found in tropical Central and South America, from southern Mexico to northern Argentina. Trapping of the birds for the pet trade, plus loss of habitat due to deforestation in their native lands, has severely decreased their numbers since the 1960s.

There are 23 species of macaws, and some of these have already become extinct while others are endangered.

Macaws can live 50 to 75 years and often outlive their owners.

"They are considered to be among the most intelligent of all birds and also one of the most affectionate -- it is believed they are sensitive to human emotions," explains Tizard.

"Possessing stunning feathers that are brightly colored, some macaws have a wingspan approaching four feet. They also usually mate for life and can fly as fast as 35 miles per hour."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Texas A&M University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christopher M. Seabury, Scot E. Dowd, Paul M. Seabury, Terje Raudsepp, Donald J. Brightsmith, Poul Liboriussen, Yvette Halley, Colleen A. Fisher, Elaine Owens, Ganesh Viswanathan, Ian R. Tizard. A Multi-Platform Draft de novo Genome Assembly and Comparative Analysis for the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao). PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (5): e62415 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062415

Cite This Page:

Texas A&M University. "Save the parrots: Macaw genome sequenced." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130508213056.htm>.
Texas A&M University. (2013, May 8). Save the parrots: Macaw genome sequenced. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 25, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130508213056.htm
Texas A&M University. "Save the parrots: Macaw genome sequenced." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130508213056.htm (accessed January 25, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Florida Might Legalize Black Bear Hunting

Florida Might Legalize Black Bear Hunting

Newsy (Jan. 24, 2015) A string of black bear attacks has Florida officials considering lifting the ban on hunting the animals to control their population. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Killing Large Portion Of Ape Population

Ebola Killing Large Portion Of Ape Population

Newsy (Jan. 23, 2015) Experts estimate Ebola has wiped out one-third of the world&apos;s gorillas and chimpanzees. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Controversy Shrouds Captive Killer Whale in Miami

Controversy Shrouds Captive Killer Whale in Miami

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) Activists hope the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) will label killer whales endangered, allowing lawyers to sue a Miami aquarium to release an orca into the wild after 44 years. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
‘Healthy’ Foods That Surprisingly Pack on Pounds

‘Healthy’ Foods That Surprisingly Pack on Pounds

Buzz60 (Jan. 23, 2015) Some &apos;healthy&apos; foods are actually fattening. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) shines a light on the sneaky foods like nuts, seeds, granola, trail mix, avocados, guacamole, olive oil, peanut butter, fruit juices and salads that are good for you...but not so much for your waistline. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins