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Triploid plover female provides support for a role of the W chromosome in avian sex determination.

Abstract

Two models, Z Dosage and Dominant W, have been proposed to explain sex determination in birds, in which males are characterized by the presence of two Z chromosomes, and females are hemizygous with a Z and a W chromosome. According to the Z Dosage model, high dosage of a Z-linked gene triggers male development, whereas the Dominant W model postulates that a still unknown W-linked gene triggers female development. Using 33 polymorphic microsatellite markers, we describe a female triploid Kentish plover Charadrius alexandrinus identified by characteristic triallelic genotypes at 14 autosomal markers that produced viable diploid offspring. Chromatogram analysis showed that the sex chromosome composition of this female was ZZW. Together with two previously described ZZW female birds, our results suggest a prominent role for a female determining gene on the W chromosome. These results imply that avian sex determination is more dynamic and complex than currently envisioned.

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