Comparative chromosome painting in Columbidae (Columbiformes) reinforces divergence in Passerea and Columbea


Pigeons and doves (Columbiformes) are one of the oldest and most diverse extant lineages of birds. However, the karyotype evolution within Columbiformes remains unclear. To delineate the synteny-conserved segments and karyotypic differences among four Columbidae species, we used chromosome painting from Gallus gallus (GGA, 2n = 78) and Leucopternis albicollis (LAL, 2n = 68). Besides that, a set of painting probes for the eared dove, Zenaida auriculata (ZAU, 2n = 76), was generated from flow-sorted chromosomes. Chromosome painting with GGA and ZAU probes showed conservation of the first ten ancestral pairs in Z. auriculata, Columba livia, and Columbina picui, while in Leptotila verreauxi, fusion of the ancestral chromosomes 6 and 7 was observed. However, LAL probes revealed a complex reorganization of ancestral chromosome 1, involving paracentric and pericentric inversions. Because of the presence of similar intrachromosomal rearrangements in the chromosomes corresponding to GGA1q in the Columbidae and Passeriformes species but without a common origin, these results are consistent with the recent proposal of divergence within Neoaves (Passerea and Columbea). In addition, inversions in chromosome 2 were identified in C. picui and L. verreauxi. Thus, in four species of distinct genera of the Columbidae family, unique chromosomal rearrangements have occurred during karyotype evolution, confirming that despite conservation of the ancestral syntenic groups, these chromosomes have been modified by the occurrence of intrachromosomal rearrangements.

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Ancestral karyotype of the Columbiformes


Columba livia


Columbina picui


Fluorescent in situ hybridization


Gallus gallus


Gyps fulvus


Leucopternis albicollis


Leptotila verreauxi


Putative avian ancestral karyotype


Zenaida auriculata


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We are grateful to CAPES for the scholarships to R. Kretschmer (PhD scholarship and a scholarship of Programa de Doutorado-sanduíche no Exterior), SISBIO for authorization for the sampling of the specimens examined in the present study, and the Instituto Evandro Chagas for logistical support.


This study received financial support from Instituto Evandro Chagas. This study was also supported by the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and the Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Rio Grande do Sul (FAPERGS).

Author information




T.R.O.F., M.A.F.S., and E.H.C.O. conceived, designed, and supervised the project. R.K., I.O.F., and J.C.P. designed and performed most of the experiments and contributed to the interpretation of results. R.K. and I.O.F. analyzed the data and wrote the paper. M.A.F.S., P.C.M.O., R.J.G., A.V.G., E.H.C.O., and T.R.O.F. reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Rafael Kretschmer.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Responsible Editor: Fengtang Yang

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Kretschmer, R., de Oliveira Furo, I., Gunski, R.J. et al. Comparative chromosome painting in Columbidae (Columbiformes) reinforces divergence in Passerea and Columbea. Chromosome Res 26, 211–223 (2018).

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  • Birds cytogenetics
  • Ancestral karyotype of Columbiformes
  • Chromosome evolution
  • FISH