In Science this week, researchers compare the genomes of two types of crows — the all-black carrion crow and the gray-coated hooded crow — and find that a very small percentage of the birds' genes are responsible for their different looks. The team compared the genomes of 60 crows from the areas in Europe where their ranges overlap and found that varied expression of less than 0.28 percent of the entire genome was enough to maintain different coloration between the two species. This particular 1.95 megabase pair-long area of the genome is located on the avian chromosome 18, and it harbors genes associated with pigment coloration, visual perception, and hormonal balance. This suggests that the variations in gene expression patterns of these crows are enough to keep the two species distinct, even when mating occurs between species. GenomeWeb Daily News has more on the crow genomes here.
Also in Science, scientists from the National Human Genome Research Institute discuss how the institute's Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) initiative hopes to boost the continent’s participation in genomics research. They point out how issues such as a shortage of African scientists with genomic research expertise, a lack of biomedical research infrastructure, and a lack of government support have prevented Africans from receiving the benefits of genomic science. The initiative aims to train and retain more African genomics researchers and increase the participation of African study participants.