Fancy feather gene

A tweak in a single pigeon gene causes a distinct feather formation

By Stephen Ornes, 14:18 PM February 15, 2013

This Indian fantail, one of 350 breeds of rock pigeons, has a tuft of feathers called a peak crest. Scientists recently pinpointed the gene mutation responsible for this feather formation. Credit: Michael Shapiro

What a difference a gene makes! For pigeons, one gene can make or break the appearance of fancy feathers.

Many pigeons have crests or collars, tufts of feathers on the head or neck that appear to go the wrong way. They point up toward the head instead of down toward the tail. This funny feature decorates many different pigeon breeds, but all of those birds have one thing in common: A genetic alteration. In January, scientists reported they had pinpointed the altered gene responsible for t...

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