The rock pigeon is a single species (Columba livia) with 350 different breeds with different sizes, shapes, colors, color patterns, beaks, bone structure, vocalizations and arrangements of feathers on the feet and head -- including head crests that come in shapes known as hoods, manes, shells and peaks.
Research detailed in the Jan. 31, 2013, issue of the online journal Science Express, researchers found a single gene mutation is responsible for these head crests, signaling the head and neck feathers to grow upward rather than down in a tamer fashion. Here, and English trumpeter pigeon.
What a Hoot
An Old German owl breed of domestic pigeon has a short beak (like other "owl breeds") and a crest of feathers on the head referred to as a shell crest.
The scientists found a breed called fantails (shown here), which are typically associated with India, are related to breeds whose ancestors are known to have come from Iran.
Here, an Italian owl pigeon; the team found owl breeds of the rock pigeon are very closely related to breeds known to have come from Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.
A Brunner pouter pigeon.
Pomeranian pouter pigeon, showing off its feathery feet.
A Chinese owl pigeon
These two rock pigeon breeds, the old Dutch capuchine (left) and komorner tumbler (right), are not closely related, yet they both have feathery ornamentation on their heads known as a head crest.
Two pigeon breeds shown here both share short beaks: the English longface tumbler (left) and the old German owl pigeon (right).
A beautiful Jacobin pigeon with feathered hood.
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Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.