Meeting Abstract

S2-1.2  Jan. 4  Pecking at the origin of avian morphological variation ABZHANOV, Arhat; Harvard University

The features of the vertebrate face are often readily recognizable as it displays a number of species-specific characteristics. The beaks of birds in addition to the ordinary masticatory function also serve as important tools and display stunning adaptive variation. We primarily focus on Darwin's finches in which dramatic variations in the size and shape of beaks evolved and are well documented. Importantly, the differences in beak morphology are inherited and developmentally regulated. We are interested in studying the molecular and genetic basis for the evolutionary changes in avian beak morphology. To that purpose we performed candidate gene and microarray screen approaches to understand roles for developmental genes in craniofacial evolution. For several genes now we were able to show both the morphology-specific expression and functional significance of this expression for beak skeletogenesis.