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Hummingbird Genomics2019-04-19T15:05:49+00:00

MARCH

Biodiversity & The Hummingbird

PerkinElmer Applied Genomics

Applied Genomics Studies Unearth Radical Insight into the Hummingbird

Hummingbirds play an essential role as pollinators and insectivores in many ecosystems. Since hummingbirds species are highly specialized, any changes in their environment can have disastrous consequences. To date, 37 species of hummingbirds (about 10% of the total number of species) risk extinction in the next ten years. Genomic studies have found a striking correlation between the genomic configuration and the body structure of these fascinating birds: not only are they the birds with the smallest body size, but they also have the smallest genome within this vertebrate group. One hypothesis suggests that low DNA content results in a nucleus of reduced size, which is required to keep the cell size as small as possible and allow efficient gas exchange to meet the hummingbird’s high metabolic demands.

  • Model Organism
    The symbiotic relationship with flowers and hummingbirds began when an ancestor of the modern-day hummingbird colonized America close to 22 million years ago. Understanding their relationship can help lead to a general understanding of how nature evolves, and how humans can protect nature as a whole.
  • Continuation of Plant Species
    Hummingbirds inability to smell has encouraged a mutual relationship between an array of plants, designed specifically for hummingbirds’ incredible sight. A few characteristics of the sought-out plants include discernible, bright colors such as red, orange, yellow, pink, and purple, as well as easily accessible blossoms that uniquely fit the hummingbird’s beak, or plants with a high percentage of nectar. 75% of North American plants that produce nectar depend on the hummingbird to help scatter their seeds, regenerate and grow, as well as distribute pollen. The symbiotic relationship between the two ensures the continuation of both species.

  • Temperature & Fragility
    Many hummingbird’s migration patterns have been negatively affected. Rampant temperature fluctuations due to climate change have caused these delicate creatures to be spotted outside of their normal range, where symbiotic plants that they feed upon may not exist.

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