How keen is a bird’s sense of smell?
Probably much stronger than John J.
Audubon once claimed. And when it comes
to the golden eagle, whose numbers have
been decimated in recent years in heavily
populated areas, new findings by Purdue
researchers could lead not only to a deeper
understanding of their olfactory abilities
but also new methods for tracking their
Performing the first-ever genome
sequencing of the golden eagle, J. Andrew
De Woody, a professor of forestry and
natural resources and biological sciences,
and Jacqueline Doyle, a postdoctoral
associate, discovered dozens of genes
associated with smell. Their sheer
number indicates that smell could be
more important to eagles than previously
thought for activities such as finding prey.
“The sequencing also has identified
thousands of genetic markers that can be
used for noninvasive DNA monitoring,”
De Woody says. By using thousands
of genetic markers together as a DNA
“fingerprint,” researchers could distinguish
individual birds, follow them in a
population and determine population
size flux, parentage and genetic variation.
| L. T.
Understanding an Eagle’s Sense of Smell
J. Andrew DeWoody