Purdue and West Virginia University researchers are the first to sequence the genome of the golden eagle, providing a bird's-eye view of eagle features that could lead to more effective conservation strategies.
Their study calls into question long-held assumptions about golden eagle vision, indicating that the raptors may not be as sensitive to ultraviolet light as previously thought. The genome also suggests that golden eagles could have a sharper sense of smell than researchers realized.
This is a golden eagle.
Credit: Todd Katzner
Additionally, the genome provides thousands of genetic markers that will help researchers track populations and monitor eagle mortality.
"Having the golden eagle genome in hand could directly affect the way we make conservation and management decisions," said Jacqueline Doyle, postdoctoral research associate and first author of the paper.
Though it is one of the most widespread avian species, the golden eagle is threatened throughout much of its range by poaching, shrinking habitats and fatal collisions with wind turbines. An estimated 67 golden eagles are killed annually at a single wind farm - the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area in central California - a heavy toll on a species that reproduces slowly and can live up to 30 years, said J. Andrew DeWoody, professor of genetics and senior author of the study.
One recently proposed method of reducing turbine-related eagle deaths was to coat wind turbines with ultraviolet-reflective paint, thereby heightening their visibility to eagles, which were thought to be sensitive to ultraviolet light. But the golden eagle genome suggests that eagle vision is rooted in the violet spectrum - like human sight - rather than the ultraviolet.
"We find little genomic evidence that golden eagles are sensitive to ultraviolet light," Doyle said. "Painting wind turbines with ultraviolet-reflective paint is probably not going to prevent eagles from colliding with turbines."
Analysis of the genome also revealed that golden eagles have far more genes associated with smell than previously realized, indicating that the birds might use smell to locate prey more than researchers thought.
Doyle used the genome to identify thousands of genetic markers that together could act as a DNA "fingerprint," allowing researchers to distinguish individual birds, follow them in a population and determine population size and flux, parentage and genetic variation.
DeWoody said the markers would also help scientists track the evolution of different families of genes and identify potential golden eagle pathogens, parasites and symbiotic organisms.
The researchers generated the genome by extracting DNA from a blood sample of a golden eagle that was captured with a spring-loaded net in California. The eagle was outfitted with a Global Positioning System tracking device before its release, making it possibly the first animal to have its genome sequenced and be tracked at the same time, DeWoody said.
Team leader Todd Katzner, a research assistant professor at West Virginia University, said the GPS device could allow the team to relate the individual movements and behavior of the golden eagle to its genome.
DeWoody said the golden eagle "truly represents the wild. We want to preserve and conserve this species for future generations, and the genome will improve our ability to do that."
The paper was published Wednesday (April 23) in PLOS ONE and is available at http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0095599.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Purdue University Provost's Office provided funding for the research.
Natalie van Hoose | Eurek Alert!
How brains surrender to sleep
23.06.2017 | IMP - Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pathologie GmbH
A new technique isolates neuronal activity during memory consolidation
22.06.2017 | Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology