Genome: Taeniopygia guttata

Male and Female Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata).

Other Vertebrates
Non-Mammalian Vertebrate
Scientific Name
Taeniopygia guttata
Common Name
Zebra Finch


The zebra finch is a member of the order Passeriformes (perching birds) which includes thousands of species of songbirds. More research is conducted on songbirds that on any other avian group except for chickens. A major focus is neurobiological and behavioral research. Males learn to sing a complex courtship song during an early critical period, but females do not sing. Song learning has distinct similarities to the learning of language in humans. Unlike the situation in humans, however, the neural circuit for song learning has been identified and is amenable for detailed study. Studies on the zebra finch have made substantial contributions to the understanding of the neural basis of learning, adult neurogenesis, sexual differentiation of the brain, hormone synthesis and action on the brain, complex auditory processing, sensory-motor integration, and in other areas. Songbirds as a group have been studied extensively in the disciplines of population biology, ecology, behavior, evolution, and reproduction. The zebra finch genome, as the second bird genome to be sequenced, holds important keys to better understanding evolution of the structure of genomes, using comparison to the genome of the chicken and other species. Songbirds in general are expected to have a compact 1.2 Gb genome contrasting with that of mammals, but similar to that of the chicken, composed of 7 macrochromosome pairs, two sex chromosomes, and 32 pairsof microchromosomes. The sex chromosomes are ZZ male and ZW female. Thus, comparisons of the sex chromosomes to those of the chicken will yield new information on the mechanisms of sex determination and evolution of sex chromosomes.The advent of extensive genomic information on zebra finches will be a great catalyst for further studies of songbirds and other non-mammlian species, which will provide critical new perspectives on human biology.


The zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) is native to many areas of Australia. Because of its beautiful plumage and ease of breeding in captivity, it has become a popular cage bird fancied by aviculturists around the world. The exact time and place of domestication are unclear. The zebra finch is widely studied by biologists in the laboratory and field.

Sequencing Plan

The zebra finch genome will be sequenced to 6X coverage using a male bird selected from a breeding population from Dr. Art Arnold's lab at UCLA. This DNA source will serve as the reference genome for zebra finch and a male BAC library will be constructed from this same male bird DNA. From this BAC library all clones will fingerprinted and end sequenced. A comprehensive BAC based physical map of ~15X coverage will be built from the resulting fingerprints. In addition, 50 BAC clones will be selected from regions of biological significance for shotgun sequencing. Funding for the sequence characterization of the zebra finch genome is being provided by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), National Institutes of Health (NIH).