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Dr. Menke Collaborates on New Understanding of Reptile Coloration


To gain a better understanding of the genetic basis of coloration in vertebrates, an international research team including UGA Professor Doug Menke combined a range of techniques—whole gene sequencing, gene-editing and electron microscopy—to examine color variations and patterning in skin shed by ball pythons bred in captivity.

They were able to identify a particular gene (tfec) that plays a crucial role in reptile pigmentation generally and more specifically in a classic color variant, the piebald, found across vertebrates. This particular coloration is distinguishable by blotches of white.

“Despite many decades of research on the genetics of pigmentation patterning in animals, very little of this work has been performed in reptiles,” Menke said. “Therefore, it’s exciting to finally identify a gene that plays a central role in reptile coloration.”


Professor, Director, Developmental Biology Alliance, Ph.D. (2002) Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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