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Chris Merkord

Butterbutt biology: warblers, migration and mitochondria

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An adult male Butterbutt -- also known as Audubon’s (yellow-rumped) warbler, Setophaga coronata, in-hand. Image courtesy of David Toews
A non-migratory population of songbirds appears to have acquired mitochondria from their close relatives that are migratory, potentially allowing these birds to migrate better

 

A non-migratory population of songbirds appears to have acquired mitochondria from their close relatives that are migratory, potentially allowing these birds to migrate better, according to a newly-published study by a group of researchers based at Canada's University of British Columbia. Mitochondria synthesise the biochemical energy that powers living cells. The team studied a population of neotropical warblers living in the transition zone between the northern (seasonally migratory) form and the southern (resident) form. Using a variety of novel approaches, they compared mitochondrial genetics and function, and migratory behaviour. The researchers found that mitochondria in flight muscles of the migratory birds may be more metabolically efficient, thus capable of powering the energetic demands of migration over longer distances. These findings could have sweeping implications for a variety of research areas, ranging from physiology to conservation biology to evolution.
 

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/science/grrlscientist/2013/oct/03/songbirds-warblers-mitochondria-migration

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