In alternate plumage, the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) is polymorphic, such that individuals exhibit a median crown stripe that is either white or tan in color. This plumage polymorphism is believed to be caused by a chromosomal inversion and predicts many aspects of an individual’s aggressive and parental behavior, which makes this species an interesting and valuable subject for the study of the genetic basis of social behavior. Although the plumage polymorphism is well described, in practice the determination of morph for individual birds is not perfectly straightforward. Whereas morph can be assessed relatively easily in alternate plumage, birds in basic plumage tend to show coloration characteristic of both morphs. During the winter and fall, therefore, plumage morph cannot be determined with 100% accuracy by visual inspection alone. Here, we describe a genotyping assay that reliably predicts morph in alternate plumage. DNA from one drop of blood is amplified by PCR, digested and run on an agarose gel. The resulting banding patterns are used to distinguish white-striped from tan-striped birds with 100% accuracy. This method is fast and economical compared with karyotyping, is far less subjective than assessment of morph by plumage characteristics, and can be performed using any kind of sample from which DNA can be extracted.
Un test génotypique pour déterminer la forme du plumage chez Zonotrichia albicollis