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

Science pigeon cover


current biology cover of an english pouter

(click images to enlarge)

Pigeon genetics

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!


Upcoming Events

TBD: University of Utah Evolutionary Molecular Genetics Retreat

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.



Undergraduate Sara Fauver was awarded a Myriad Genetics 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!


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.


Mike is on sabbatical.


Undergraduate Anna Vickrey was awarded a prize in the graduate student poster competition at the annual U of U Biosciences Symposium. Congrats, Anna!


Congrats to Sara Fauver and Anna Vickrey! Both were awarded Fall inernships by the University Research Opportunities Program.


Just published:

Guernsey MW, Ritscher L, Miller MA, Smith DA, Schöneberg T, Shapiro MD. (2013) A Val85Met Mutation in Melanocortin-1 Receptor Is Associated with Reductions in Eumelanic Pigmentation and Cell Surface Expression in Domestic Rock Pigeons (Columba livia). PLoS ONE 8(8): e74475. Get the pdf here.


Dimensions of Biodiversity collaboration among Dale Clayton, Sarah Bush, Kevin Johnson, and our lab was funded by NSF!


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Who's' visiting? (Since June 2013)