Zebra finch thematic series takes off

The zebra finch joins the chicken today as the second bird species to have its genome fully sequenced. The abilities of this bird to learn songs makes the zebra finch an attractive species to study the neurobiology and evolution of learned behavior. Songbird studies will also shed light on cognitive processes involved in vocal communication and related aspects of brain development and evolution.

With the announcement of the full genome sequence, BioMed Central launches an exciting new thematic series, bringing together zebra finch related research across our journals.

In Journal of Biology, Raphale Pinaud highlights some of the new insights and areas of study that profit from the sequence announced today.With a second reference point in the bird world it is now possible to have an in-depth look into similarities and differences of large-scale genome structures  between birds and mammals.

In an article published today in BMC Biology, Christopher Balakrishnan and co-workers explore the intriguing evolutionary  history of the zebra finch major histocompatibility complex. In a second article in the journal, Fang Xie and colleagues survey the neuropeptidome of the song bird.

Victor Quesada and colleagues report in BMC Genomics  how genomic expansions and deletions shape the  repertoires of proteases in birds and mammals, Estrogenic steroids are responsible to shape the male neural circuits that control zebra finch singing and Sarah London and David Clayton had a close look at steroid related genes in the songbird genome .

As with every new genome, the announcement of the sequence is a first step towards a new research program, rather than the endpoint of it. The questions that can now be addressed, using the song bird as a genomic model, are supported by new genetic tools. In BMC Genomics, Alexander Ball and colleagues explore the types of markers that can be applied to detailed genetic studies.

Our new thematic series takes off today, but we will add further content to the series in the near future. The interest in zebra finch research brings together scientists from backgrounds as diverse as neuroscience, evolutionary biology,  genomics , developmental biology and ecology. From basic questions on the evolution of language to the study of avian virology as a potential threat to human health, the songbird genome will open new doors to understanding. The series will be a home for songbird research from all these fields and we hope that bringing these articles together will prompt continued interest in the wider scientific community and promote fruitful collaborations.

Hans Zauner

Scientific Editor, BMC Series journals

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