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Draft genome assembly of the Bengalese finch, Lonchura striata domestica, a model for motor skill variability and learning



Vocal learning in songbirds has emerged as a powerful model for sensorimotor learning. Neurobehavioral studies of Bengalese finch (Lonchura striata domestica) song, naturally more variable and plastic than songs of other finch species, have demonstrated the importance of behavioral variability for initial learning, maintenance, and plasticity of vocalizations. However, the molecular and genetic underpinnings of this variability and the learning it supports are poorly understood.


To establish a platform for the molecular analysis of behavioral variability and plasticity, we generated an initial draft assembly of the Bengalese finch genome from a single male animal to 151× coverage and an N50 of 3.0 MB. Furthermore, we developed an initial set of gene models using RNA-seq data from 8 samples that comprise liver, muscle, cerebellum, brainstem/midbrain, and forebrain tissue from juvenile and adult Bengalese finches of both sexes.


We provide a draft Bengalese finch genome and gene annotation to facilitate the study of the molecular-genetic influences on behavioral variability and the process of vocal learning. These data will directly support many avenues for the identification of genes involved in learning, including differential expression analysis, comparative genomic analysis (through comparison to existing avian genome assemblies), and derivation of genetic maps for linkage analysis. Bengalese finch gene models and sequences will be essential for subsequent manipulation (molecular or genetic) of genes and gene products, enabling novel mechanistic investigations into the role of variability in learned behavior.

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