(female narrator) In 2012 biologists from around the world met at Indiana University to chart the course of future research on the junco.
Since Rowan's pioneering discovery of photoperiodism in the 1920s, juncos have played a starring role in groundbreaking discoveries from a remarkable array of biological disciplines.
From Ellen Ketterson's long-term research on testosterone in social behavior...
to Borja Milá's continued quest to understand their spectacular diversification across the continent...
to ongoing studies in San Diego, where they're evolving right before our eyes, juncos continue to teach us important lessons about the natural world. It's a very exciting time to be an evolutionary biologist
because we're just now being able to link some of the physical aspects we see about organisms, about birds, such as their plumage, their morphology, even their behavior, to specific genes. Until now, it's been very difficult to actually isolate genes because, really, it's looking for a needle in a haystack. The genome size is so large, and these individual genes are so small, that it's been very difficult to zero in on them. Now with new sequencing technologies, what we're being able to do is sort through more of that haystack to find the needle. Now we can look at the entire genome. The difference between that is probably about a million times what we could do before in the same amount of time.
(narrator) Despite nearly 100 years of intensive research on the junco, there's no end to our learning through studying this amazing group of birds.
Hello, my name is Trevor. We can learn about city living from juncos.
We can learn about speciation from juncos. Adaptation. Climate change. The brain. Hybridization.
We can learn about violence from juncos. How genes affect behavior. Reproduction. We can learn about mate choice. Evolution. Gene expression. Range expansion. Communication. We can learn about maternal care from juncos. Geographic variation. Hormones. Gonads. Monogamy.
We can learn about sex, food, and death. Yourself. Sensory systems. Trait selection. We can learn about disease ecology. Olfaction. Plasticity. We can learn a lot about beauty and nature from the junco.
(narrator) Next time you see a little gray bird, maybe even in your own backyard,
remember to take a second look and consider all that can be learned from the ordinary, extraordinary junco.
Funding to purchase and make this educational production accessible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education:
PH: 1-800-USA-LEARN (V) or WEB: www.ed.gov.