Falcon genomics in the context of conservation, speciation, and human culture

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Here, we review the diversity, evolutionary history, and genomics of falcons in the context of their conservation and interactions with humans, and provide a perspective on how new genomic approaches may be applied to expand our knowledge of these topics. For millennia, humans and falcons (genus Falco) have developed unique relationships through falconry, religious rituals, conservation efforts, and human lifestyle transitions. From an evolutionary perspective, falcons remain an enigma. Having experienced several recent radiations, they have reached an unparalleled and almost global distribution, with an intrageneric species richness that is roughly an order of magnitude higher than typical within their family (Falconidae) and across other birds (Phylum: Aves). This diversity has evolved in the context of unusual genomic architecture that includes unique chromosomal rearrangements, relatively low chromosome counts, extremely low microdeletion rates, and high levels of nuclear mitochondrial DNA segments (NUMTs). These genomic peculiarities combine with high levels of ecological and organismal diversity and a legacy of human interactions to make falcons obvious candidates for evolutionary studies, providing unique research opportunities in common topics, including chromosomal evolution, the mechanics of speciation, local adaptation, domestication, and urban adaptation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14523-14537
Number of pages15
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number24
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • captive breeding
  • falcon (Falco)
  • falconry
  • genomics
  • hybridization
  • nonmodel organism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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