Comparative analyses identify genomic features potentially involved in the evolution of birds-of-paradise

Stefan Prost, Ellie E. Armstrong, Johan Nylander, Gregg W. C. Thomas, Alexander Suh, Bent Petersen, Love Dalen, Brett W. Benz, Mozes P. K. Blom, Eleftheria Palkopoulou, Per G. P. Ericson, Martin Irestedt

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17 Citations (Scopus)


The diverse array of phenotypes and courtship displays exhibited by birds-of-paradise have long fascinated scientists and nonscientists alike. Remarkably, almost nothing is known about the genomics of this iconic radiation. There are 41 species in 16 genera currently recognized within the birds-of-paradise family (Paradisaeidae), most of which are endemic to the island of New Guinea. In this study, we sequenced genomes of representatives from all five major clades within this family to characterize genomic changes that may have played a role in the evolution of the group’s extensive phenotypic diversity. We found genes important for coloration, morphology, and feather and eye development to be under positive selection. In birds-of-paradise with complex lekking systems and strong sexual dimorphism, the core birds-of-paradise, we found Gene Ontology categories for “startle response” and “olfactory receptor activity” to be enriched among the gene families expanding significantly faster compared to the other birds in our study. Furthermore, we found novel families of retrovirus-like retrotransposons active in all three de novo genomes since the early diversification of the birds-of-paradise group, which might have played a role in the evolution of this fascinating group of birds.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbergiz003
Issue number5
Early online date24 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Birds-of-paradise
  • Comparative genomics
  • Gene gain-loss
  • Genome structure
  • Positive selection

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