Talk About Gender Equality!

Strange Birds Present Gender-Bending Mystery

I found another cool article on animal coloration and biology. It is about gynandromorphs! These animals “are genetic anomalies: Some cells in their bodies carry the genetic instructions for a male, some for a female.” So, unlike albinos, gynandromorphs have unique coloration because of their sex chromosomes, not a pigment defect. Humans cannot be gynandromorphs because “the dominant hormones can overwrite an abnormality in the sex chromosomes.” Hormones play a significant role in sex identity in humans and these hormones diffuse uniformly throughout the body. It was assumed that animals would exhibit similar qualities, but researchers were mistaken. In the dual-sex finch, despite having the same exposure of hormones, the bird had male and female brain cells. Gynandromorph chicken cells also “followed their own sets of instructions, regardless of the hormones to which they were exposed.” It is still unclear exactly how these gender-benders are formed, but it happens sometime early in embryo development.

I think the cardinal is my favorite because the coloration is so amazing. I would recommend clicking on the links within the article. They link to more pictures of these beautiful anomalies. I thought it was interesting to learn about the disconnect between the cell sex chromosomes, hormones, and behavior in these animals. I would have also assumed an animal’s sex and behavior was determined similarly to humans. Neat to know these guys exist. Maybe you’ll be more attentive to your bird feeders and butterfly gardens. Keep a camera close by!

Gynandromorph of Common Blue. Wiki Commons: Burkhard Hinnersmann, Reinhard Kraasch

Gynandromorph of Common Blue. Wiki Commons: Burkhard Hinnersmann, Reinhard Kraasch


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