A team of researchers from IISER Bhopal’s Department of Biological Sciences have sequenced the genome of the peacock, national bird of India. This report took two years for the group of researchers and scientists to collate, and is publicly available on the research pre-print server bioRXiv, providing insight into the genetic reasons enabling peacocks to have ornate feathers as well as the ability of flight. The entire genome consists of 1.1 billion base pair units of DNA and codes for 15970 genes, as revealed by the report, which when compared to similar birds like chicken and turkey, revealed to 99 genes different in a peacock. A majority of these differing genes involve the early embryonic development or provide immunity, and might as well be the reason behind the unusual structure and size of the peacock feathers. The study offers various candidate genes for research into the uniqueness of the peacock feathers, and how these said genes, along with their specific mutations and combinations, act to control the morphology of the peacocks. The selection of sexual partners by the peahen features the feathers in a major role. The feathers, instead of making the bird unwieldy, actually helps in better natural selection. The sequencing of the genome aided researchers to look into the peacock’s evolutionary history. The IISER Bhopal team will further work on experiments to elucidate the exact functional role of these genes to improve our understanding of genotype-phenotype correlations for peacocks, as well as derive complete chromosomes for the peafowl.
Cover Pic: Peacock wooing peahen. Photo by ToastyKen/Wikimedia Commons.
— As reported by Mongabay