Marked Evolutionary Divergence in Peafowl Immune System Genes
Despite the thousands of years of cohabitation with humans, peafowls still reserve many surprises. Sequencing of the peafowl genome has revealed a strong adaptive evolution in some fundamental developmental pathways, such as TGF-ß, wnt, and BMP, suggesting that the development of the peacock’s unique feather structure is an early event. Additionally, researchers have observed a marked evolutionary divergence in immune system genes, conferring a stronger resistance toward pathogens compared to related bird species. A current working hypothesis suggests that the two evolutionary phenomena are correlated and that both the feather display and physical health contribute to the same mechanism of sexual selection operating within this species.
As omnivores, peafowls are important because they keep our ecosystems in balance. From pollinating plants and dispersing seeds, peafowls will also scavenge carcasses while recycling nutrients back into the soil.
Scavenging by peafowls is a vital tool for waste disposal in many ecosystems. This prevents the outbreak of diseases that can occur through the accumulation of animal carcasses.
As agriculture is concerned, peafowls can be beneficial through the regulation of pests. Through this interaction, humans are aided by not spending money on destructive pesticides, leading to healthier and more productive crops.
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