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Evolution of red carotenoid coloration in birds

Supervisor: Dr Nick Mundy

Project summary:

The project builds on our recent discovery of a gene (CYP2J19) underlying bright red carotenoid coloration in songbirds. CYP2J19 is required to convert dietary yellow carotenoids into red carotenoids. The project will investigate whether the same genetic mechanism is responsible for red coloration in other avian groups. It will also investigate why birds differ in the site of conversion of dietary carotenoids. 

What the student will be doing:

Labwork will investigate the number of copies of the CYP2J19 and the pattern of expression of CYP2J19 in different avian groups. Some fieldwork to collect samples will be possible. 


Mundy, N. I. et al. (2016) Red carotenoid coloration in the zebra finch is controlled by a cytochrome P450 gene cluster. Current Biology 26, 1435-1440.

Twyman, H., Valenzuela, N., Literman, R., Andersson, S. and N. I. Mundy (2016) Seeing red to being red: conserved genetic mechanism for red cone oil droplets and co-option for red coloration in birds and turtles. Proc. Roy Soc. B 283, 20161208.


Some consumables funding available. Applicants may apply to the NERC DTP for funding for this project.