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April 12, 2019

Painted buntings breed in US during summer

An adult male painted bunting. Painted buntings breed primarily in the United States during the summer, then migrate to Mexico, Central America, southern Florida and the Caribbean over the winter.

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A team of researchers, led by Andrea Contina of the University of Oklahoma (OU), has identified the genetic structure of the painted bunting, a neotropical migratory songbird.

The team used microsatellite DNA and single nucleotide polymorphisms to develop high-resolution markers to differentiate between individual birds breeding in different Oklahoma populations and across the United States.

Through this research, Contina and his team can now differentiate between the eastern and western painted buntings, and can identify the species pattern of migration and population of origin.

"We combine molecular genetic research and conservation biology to differentiate between painted bunting populations and individual birds that migrate across several countries for breeding in the United States during the summer, then migrate to Central America for wintering where often they are captured and sold in the international avian pet market," said Contina, a National Science Foundation (NSF) National Research Traineeship postdoctoral fellow. "Genetic markers allow us to differentiate where the birds come from after they are sold."

Contina and the research team are collaborating to better understand why certain painted bunting populations are declining. The genetic research conducted by the team has international relevance and can be used in future investigative studies.

[Research supported in part by NSF grants CMMI 1014891, DEB 0946685 and DGE 1545261.]

Read more about this research in the OU news story Decoding the DNA of a songbird. (Date image taken: June 2018; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: April 12, 2019)

Credit: Andrea Contina, University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Biological Survey

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