OMIA 002408-44316 : Feather colour, red-headed in Erythrura gouldiae

Mendelian trait/disorder: yes

Mode of inheritance: Z-linked

Considered a defect: no

Key variant known: no

Key variant is published: no

Species-specific name: Toomey et al. (2028): "Gouldian finch is endemic to Australia and throughout its range two common colour morphs, black and red head colour, coexist at a ratio of approximately 7 : 3 ... [Franklin and Dostine, 2000]. A third orange morph occurs at very low frequency (less than 0.1%). These head-colour morphs also have distinct physiological and behavioural phenotypes. Red morphs tend to be aggressive and dominant over black morph individuals in agonistic encounters and have a heightened physiological response to social stress [Pryke, 2007; Pryke et al., 2006, 2007]. Red morphs substantially increase circulating sex steroid (testosterone) and stress hormone (corticosterone) levels in competitive social environments, while black morphs show no such response [Pryke et al., 2007]."

Inheritance: Toomey et al. (2018): "The suite of morphological, behavioural and physiological traits associated with head-colour morph are determined by a sex-linked Mendelian locus where red (ZR) is the dominant allele and black (Zr) is recessive [Southern, 1945]. The orange head-colour morph is determined by an autosomal locus."

Mapping: Toomey et al. (2018): "the Red locus was mapped to an approximately 7.2 cM interval on the Z chromosome using microsatellite markers [Kim et al., 2016]".

Toomey et al. (2018) created a reference genome for the Gouldian finch and showed "that the red and black morphs have nearly identical genome sequences, and that genetic differences between morphs are restricted to a relatively small genomic interval that was found to be perfectly associated with the head-colour polymorphism. This interval is in a non-coding region upstream of FST." The authors "suggest that the distinct feather colour and morphology of the two morphs may be the product of cis-regulatory differences that drive differential expression of FST during a discrete period early in feather development/regeneration."

Kim et al. (2019) reported similar results, namely "that differences in colour [at the Red locus] are associated with an ~72-kbp region of the Z chromosome in a putative regulatory region for follistatin, an antagonist of the TGF-β superfamily genes. The region is highly differentiated between morphs, unlike the rest of the genome, yet we find no evidence that an inversion is involved in maintaining the distinct haplotypes".


Note: the references are listed in reverse chronological order (from the most recent year to the earliest year), and alphabetically by first author within a year.
2019 Kim, K.W., Jackson, B.C., Zhang, H., Toews, D.P.L., Taylor, S.A., Greig, E.I., Lovette, I.J., Liu, M.M., Davison, A., Griffith, S.C., Zeng, K., Burke, T. :
Genetics and evidence for balancing selection of a sex-linked colour polymorphism in a songbird. Nat Commun 10:1852, 2019. Pubmed reference: 31015412. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-09806-6.
2018 Toomey, M.B., Marques, C.I., Andrade, P., Araújo, P.M., Sabatino, S., Gazda, M.A., Afonso, S., Lopes, R.J., Corbo, J.C., Carneiro, M. :
A non-coding region near Follistatin controls head colour polymorphism in the Gouldian finch. Proc Biol Sci 285:20181788, 2018. Pubmed reference: 30282656. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1788.
2016 Kim, K.W., Griffith, S.C., Burke, T. :
Linkage mapping of a polymorphic plumage locus associated with intermorph incompatibility in the Gouldian finch (Erythrura gouldiae). Heredity (Edinb) 116:409-16, 2016. Pubmed reference: 26786066. DOI: 10.1038/hdy.2015.114.
2007 Pryke, S.R., Astheimer, L.B., Buttemer, W.A., Griffith, S.C. :
Frequency-dependent physiological trade-offs between competing colour morphs. Biol Lett 3:494-7, 2007. Pubmed reference: 17609174. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2007.0213.
Pryke, S.R. :
Fiery red heads: female dominance among head color morphs in the Gouldian finch. Behavioral Ecology 18:621-627, 2007. DOI:
2006 Pryke, S.R., Griffith, S.C. :
Red dominates black: agonistic signalling among head morphs in the colour polymorphic Gouldian finch. Proc Biol Sci 273:949-57, 2006. Pubmed reference: 16627280. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2005.3362.
2000 Franklin, D.C., Dostine, P.L. :
A note on the frequency and genetics of head colour morphs in the Gouldian finch. Emu-Austral Ornithology 100:236-239, 2000. DOI:
1945 Southern, H.N. :
Polymorphism in Poephila gouldiae gould. Journal of Genetics 47:51–57, 1945. DOI:

Edit History

  • Created by Imke Tammen2 on 28 Aug 2021
  • Changed by Imke Tammen2 on 28 Aug 2021
  • Changed by Frank Nicholas on 03 Nov 2021