Join our lab group

We are recruiting highly motivated postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate trainees. Click the "Contact Us" link above for contact information.

drawing of English pouter

Pigeonetics: the game!


Play the fun new virtual pigeon breeder video game and explore heredity at the Genetics Science Learning Center website!

Pigeon genetics research

Members of the pigeon hobbyist community are urged to contact us about our ongoing pigeon genetics project. See the press coverage of our recent publications here!

Science pigeon cover


current biology cover of an english pouter

(click images to enlarge)



Upcoming Events

Jan. 9-13, 2016: Plant and Animal Genomes conference, San Diego.

Sept. 19, 2015 - May 1, 2016: PIgeons exhibit @ Natural HIstory Museum of Utah

Calendar Links

Department of Biology calendar

Campus-wide Bioscience calendar

Genetics Interest Group schedule

Genetics of variation. Many breeds of domestic pigeon have crests of reversed feathers on the back of the head and neck. The same genetic change probably acts as an "on/off" switch for crest development in different breeds.

ninespine sticklebacks

Now you see it, now you don't. Most ninespine sticklebacks have a complete pelvic girdle (top), but fish from several populations have lost this complex structure (bottom). This is a major evolutionary change - the pelvis is the developmental equivalent of the legs of land animals.

The Genetic and Developmental Basis of Evolutionary Change

What are the genetic and developmental origins of unique traits in natural populations and species of vertebrates? In most cases of trait evolution in natural and domesticated species, we do not know how many genes are involved, which genes are actually responsible for morphological change, whether alterations to these genes affect coding or regulatory regions, or whether the same genes are involved repeatedly in the evolution of similar traits in different populations and species. Our work addresses these major issues.



Mike and Elena talked pigeon genetics with museum visitors at the Natural History Museum of Utah's behind the scenes weekend.


Elena Boer joined the lab today as a postdoctoral fellow. Welcome!


Mike and Anna gave presentations to high school students at the U's annual Science Day.


We made our annual lab pilgrimage to collect samples at the Utah Pigeon Club Premier Show. Many thanks to all the hobbyists at the show for their enthusiastic support, assistance, and advice.


Mike was interviewed by KUTV and KSL-TV about our pigeon research and the new Pigeons exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah.


Mike gave an update on our research at the Latin American Society for Developmental Biology meeting in São Paulo, Brazil.


Kim Cooper and Mike's editorial for the Developmental Dynamics Special Issue on Evolution and Morphological Diversity is now published.


Mike finally caved and joined twitter: @MikeDShapiro


english trumpeter pigeonThe new exhibit Pigeons launched at the Natural History Museum of Utah. The exhibit features some of our reasearch on pigeon genetics, and includes one of Darwin's own pigeon specimens. Check out the exhibit website here, and an article from the Salt Lake Tribune here. The exhibit runs through January 3, 2016.


The Developmental Dynamics special issue on Evolution and Morphological Diversity, edited by Kim Cooper and Mike Shapiro, is now available online.


Nora Brown (Molecular Biology Program) is doing a first-year research rotation in our lab.


Congratulations to Sara Young, who was awarded an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program internship.


Congratulations to Tennyson George, who was awarded a Biology Undergraduate Research Program scholarship and will participate in the BioURP training program.


Eric Domyan completed his postdoctoral fellowship and is now an Assistant Professor at Utah Valley University. Congratulations, Eric!


Our NIH R01 grant to study developmental and genetic mechanisms of variation in vertebrates was funded!


Eric, Rebecca, and Anna presented research updates at the Society for Developmental Biology annual meeting at Snowbird. Mike presented a poster on the Pigeonetics virtual pigeon breeder game. See the poster here (1.8 Mb png file), and play the game here.


Sydney and Mike's book chapter on the genetic basis of variation in vertebrates was published:

S.A. Stringham, M.D. Shapiro. Microevolution and the genetic basis of vertebrate diversity: examples from teleost fishes. In K.P. Dial, N.H. Shubin, E.L. Brainerd (eds.), Great Transformations in Vertebrate Evolution. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.


mustache pigeonOur new study of ringneck doves and pigeons shows that different mutations in the same gene are associated with head crests in both species. Citation: A.I. Vickrey, E.T. Domyan, M.P. Horvath, M.D. Shapiro. Convergent evolution of head crests in two domesticated columbids is associated with different missense mutations in EphB2. Molecular Biology and Evolution. Download the pdf here (if link doesn't work, try here). Check out the press release here.


Mike gave an invited talk at the Japanese Society of Developmental Biologists meeting. See the poster here.


Anna Vickery rescued an injured feral pigeon from a second-story ledge: read about it on Instagram.


Rebecca Bruders passed her qualifying exam and is now officially a Ph.D. Candidate. Congratuations, Rebecca!


Rebecca Bruders was awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to pursue her research on pigeon genetics and developmental biology. Congratuations, Rebecca!


Mike is a co-recipient (with Dr. Jennifer Heemstra, Chemistry) of the 2015 Myriad Genetics Award of Research Excellence.


Anna Vickrey was admitted to the MCEB graduate program and will be joining the lab as a graduate student!


Our colleage and collaborator Louisa Stark is the recipient of the 2015 Elizabeth W. Jones Award for Excellence in Education from Genetics Society of America! See the announcement here.


Tennyson George and Sara Young joined the lab as undergraduate researchers.


Click here for our news archive


Who's visiting? (Since June 2013)