PERSPECTIVE: A smörgåsbord of markers for avian ecology and evolution



    1. Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
    Search for more papers by this author

  • doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03644.x

Scott V. Edwards, Fax: 617-495-5667; E-mail:


The polymerase chain reaction has been a boon to the study of molecular ecology and population genetics of birds. But the nagging truth is that for many bird species, the number of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) primer pairs that one can pick off the shelf and expect to amplify their target loci with ease is frustratingly small. Now, studying DNA sequence variation in natural populations of birds just got a whole lot easier. This issue of Molecular Ecology reports a large-scale bioinformatics search for exonic sequences conserved between the chicken and zebra finch genomes and flanking polymorphic introns that has generated a staggering 242 PCR primer pairs that readily amplify their single-copy target loci in five avian species spanning ~100 million years of avian evolution (Backström et al. 2008). As proof of principle, these primers have also been used to survey the genomic landscape in over 110 kb of intronic sequence in the collared flycatcher, a model species in ecology and evolution. These resources pave the way for easy multilocus study of evolving populations and lineages of birds, and bring the goal of quickly turning nonmodel species in to ecological genomic models tantalizingly close.