Evolution of the major histocompatibility complex class I genes in Serinus canaria from the Canary Islands is different from that of Asian and African continental Serinus species
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The radiation of canaries (genus Serinus) occurred in Africa and Eurasia during the Miocene Epoch (9 million years ago) according to maximum parsimony (MP), neighbor-joining (NJ), maximum likelihood (ML) and Bayesian methodologies. Serinus canaria (wild canary) and S. serinus (European serin) together form one of the several polytomies within the genus Serinus phylogenetic trees. In a relatively late period, a wild ancestor of S. canaria invaded the Canary Islands, and these birds are the origin of all existing cage canaries, including the first genetically engineered animal: the red canary. The present analysis of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) molecules in the Canary Islands' species S. canaria shows that the evolution of the MHC in this species is overall different and faster than that of continental species – namely, S. thibetanus (Asia) and S. mozambicus (Africa) – but particularly so in the peptide binding region. These data support the hypothesis that oceanic islands may be evolutionary reservoirs and not evolutionary dead ends.
KeywordsCanary Islands Evolution Major histocompatibility complex Serinus canaria
This work was supported in part by grants from the Spanish Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia (PM-1999–023 and BMC-2001–1299) and Fundación Mutua Madrileña Automovilista. We thank Prof. Michael Wink and Javier Gonzalez for their help on handling Bayesian analyses.
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