Observation of a ZZW female in a natural population: implications for avian sex determination

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Avian sex determination is chromosomal; however, the underlying mechanisms are not yet understood. There is no conclusive evidence for either of two proposed mechanisms: a dominant genetic switch or a dosage mechanism. No dominant sex-determining gene on the female-specific W chromosome has been found. Birds lack inactivation of one of the Z chromosomes in males, but seem to compensate for a double dose of Z-linked genes by other mechanisms. Recent studies showing female-specific expression of two genes may support an active role of the W chromosome. To resolve the question of avian sex determination the investigation of birds with a 2A: ZZW or 2A: Z0 genotype would be decisive. Here, we report the case of an apparent 2A: ZZW great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) female breeding in a natural population, which was detected using Z-linked microsatellites. Our data strongly suggest a role of W-linked genes in avian sex determination.


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  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S249-S251
JournalRoyal Society of London. Proceedings B. Biological Sciences
Issue numberS4
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Publication categoryResearch

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