AsianScientist (Aug. 20, 2012) – Scientists have sequenced the genome of one of the iconic Galapagos finches first described by Charles Darwin.
The genome of the medium ground finch (Geospiza fortis) is among the first of a planned 100 genomes of vertebrate species to be sequenced and released by an international collaboration between the Genome 10K project and BGI (formerly Beijing Genome Institute).
The term “Darwin’s finches” refers to a group of about 15 species of birds collected by Charles Darwin on the Galapagos Islands during the second voyage of the Beagle.
Endemic to the subtropical or tropical dry forests and shrublands of the Galapagos Islands, the finches evolve rapidly in response to environmental changes.
Darwin’s observation that these finches exhibit a diversity of phenotypes contributed to his theory of evolution.
“These finches are of great historical significance, but when Darwin first studied these birds, he was unlikely to have envisioned how this species would become a perfect model to study evolution in action,” said Goujie Zhang, BGI’s associate director of research.
“Having the reference genome of this species has opened the door for carrying out studies that can look at real-time evolutionary changes on a genomic level of all of these enigmatic species.”
In addition, the genomic sequence is useful population studies of the finches, an important part of conservation efforts.
“BGI is looking forward to working with any collaborators interested in joining us to carry out this work,” said Zhang.
The genomic data for the medium ground finch (Geospiza fortis) can be visualized on the UCSC Genome Browser and accessed from BGI’s GigaScience database: Zhang G et al (2012) The Genome Of Darwin’s Finch (Geospiza fortis).