Baseline Gene Expression Levels in Falkland-Malvinas Island Penguins: Towards a New Monitoring Paradigm

Lizabeth Bowen, Shannon Waters, Jeffrey L. Stott, Ann Duncan, Randi Meyerson, Sarah Woodhouse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Health diagnostics of wildlife have historically relied on the evaluation of select serum biomarkers and the identification of a contaminant or pathogen burden within specific tissues as an indicator of a level of insult. However, these approaches fail to measure the physiological reaction of the individual to stressors, thus limiting the scope of interpretation. Gene-based health diagnostics provide an opportunity for an alternate, whole-system, or holistic assessment of health, not only in individuals or populations but potentially in ecosystems. Seabirds are among the most threatened marine taxonomic groups in the world, with ~25% of this species currently listed as threatened or considered of special concern; among seabirds, the penguins (Family Spheniscidae) are the most threatened seabird Family. We used gene expression to develop baseline physiological indices for wild penguins in the Falkland-Malvinas Islands, and captive zoo penguins. We identified the almost complete statistical separation of penguin groups (gentoo Detroit Zoo, gentoo Falkland-Malvinas Islands, rockhopper Detroit Zoo, and rockhopper Falkland-Malvinas Islands) based on gene expression profiles. Implementation of long-term longitudinal studies would allow for the assessment of temporal increases or decreases of select transcripts and would facilitate interpretation of the drivers of change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number258
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Falkland-Malvinas Islands
  • Penguins
  • Transcriptomics
  • Wildlife monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Palaeontology


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