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Feather Degrading Bacteria
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Birds are covered in bacteria that are capable of digesting their plumage to dust. Yet they still have their feathers. What's going on? Researchers have recently asked whether a co-evolutionary arms race with feather-degrading bacteria is ultimately responsible for plumage color, molt, preening, sunning, anting and the uropygial gland. Our students' have shown that despite the presence of lots of feather-degrading bacteria, plumage on living birds remains fairly unscathed. This is a ripe area for further interdisciplinary research in microbiology and ecology labs.