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

Oct. 20-23, 2015: Latin American Society for Developmental Biology meeting @ Santos, São Paolo, Brazil

Sept. 19, 2015 - Jan. 3, 2016: PIgeons exhibit @ Natural HIstory Museum of Utah

Calendar Links

Department of Biology calendar

Campus-wide Bioscience calendar

Genetics Interest Group schedule

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.

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.

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.



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.


Pigeonetics virtual pigeon breeder video game is now live! This project is a collaboration with the Genetic Science Learning Center. Click here to access the game directly, and here for a link to associated materials about inheritance of different traits in pigeons.


The inaugural University of Utah Molecular Evolutionary Genetics retreat was held at Deer Valley, and featured keynote talks by Doris Bachtrog (U.C. Berkeley) and John Willis (Duke).


Mike gave an update on the Dimensions of Biodiversity project (collaboration with Dale Clayton, Sarah Bush, and Kevin Johnson) at the 5th International Conference of Phthiraptera. Now we officially study pigeons and their parasites!


Mike gave an invited talk in the evo-devo symposium at the Society for Developmental Biology meeting in Seattle.


Another great pigeon video from Jim Jenner: "Young Wings." Check out the premier draft on vimeo.


Mike gave a talk in the Next Generation Genome Annotation and Analysis symposium at the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Congratulations to our new graduates, Anna Vickrey and Annah Frisch! Anna graduated with a bachelor's degree in Biology, and Annah was a double-major in Biology and Anthropology.


Congratulations to Dr. Sydney Stringham! Sydney successfully defended her Ph.D. disseration on April 30.


Marissa Burton was accepted into the summer Biology Undergraduate Research Program!


Rebecca Bruders has joined the lab to do her Ph.D. research. Welcome, Rebecca!


Sara Fauver was awarded a Myriad Genetics undergraduate scholarship -- congratuations, Sara!


Technician Mike Guernsey is leaving the lab and will attend graduate school in the Department of Developmental Biology at Stanford University in the Fall. He also received an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Congratuations, Mike!


We received an NSF Reserach Experience for Undergraduates grant supplement to fund ongoing undergraduate research in the lab.


Just published:

C.T. Miller, A.M. Glazer, B.R. Summers, B.K. Blackman, A.R. Norman, M.D. Shapiro, B.L. Cole, C.L. Peichel, D. Schluter, D.M. Kingsley. Additive and clustered quantitative trait loci control anatomically regional skeletal evolution in sticklebacks. Genetics 196: 10.1534/genetics.114.162420.. Access the paper here at the Genetics website.


mustache pigeonFeb 14: Happy National Lab Mustache Day!


English trumpetersCheck out Lindsay Whitehurt's article about our pigmentation genetics work in the Salt Lake Tribune, and Sudeshna Chowdhury's story in the Christian Science Monitor. Also see the press release at the University of Utah News Center.


Our paper on pigmentation genetics and genomics in pigeons was published online in Current Biology. This paper reports the identification of mutations in three genes that underlie major pigeon plumage color differences, and provides new insights about the molecular basis of dominance and epistasis. Domyan et al. (2014) Epistatic and combinatorial effects of pigmentary gene mutations in the domestic pigeon. Current Biology vol. 24. Get the pdf here.


Rebecca Bruders (Biology MCEB program) and Julia Carleton (Molecular Biology program) joined the lab as rotation students.


Click here for our news archive

Who's visiting? (Since June 2013)