IBE (CSIC-UPF): Great tit: urban vs forest birds

IBE (CSIC-UPF): Great tit: urban vs forest birds

News from IBE (CSIC-UPF)

The IBE researcher Dr. Calafell has just published a paper in the journal Epigenetics in collaboration with Sepand Riyahi and Joan Carles Senar (Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona), and David Monk (IDIBELL), which is at the intersection of population genetics, epigenetics, behavioural sciences, and ecology.

Great tit (Parus major) is a forest species of bird that can also be found in towns and cities. Researchers have collected birds in Collserola and in urban parks in Barcelona, and subjected them to behavoiural tests in relation to measure their reaction to novel objects. Urban birds took significantly less time to approach novel objects than the forest birds. Next, they sequenced and measured the levels of methylation of two genes encoding for neurotransmitter genes, namely DRD4 and SERT. No differences were observed for DRD4, but, in SERT, a particular SNP allele was found at higher frequency in urban birds, and was significantly associated both with behavioural test scores and with methylation suggesting a mechanism by which it could influence the phenotype and the ability of this species to colonize humanized habitats.

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Riyahi S, Sánchez-Delgado M, Calafell F, Monk D, Senar JC. Combined epigenetic and intraspecific variation of the DRD4 and SERT genes influence novelty seeking behavior in great tit Parus major. Epigenetics, in press