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Mark Eden
Hunting out of Bosebuck Mountain Camps, Wilsons Mills, Maine, Wednesday, October 22, 1986

I was hunting for ruffed grouse on an old logging road and flushed a grouse and managed to drop it. It was immediately evident as I picked it up that it was unique. I saved extra feathers that had fallen out (used later for DNA testing), and carefully put it in my vest. I later wrapped it well, in preparation for taxidermist Tom Delsignore.

September 28, 1994
From Brad Allen, Wildlife Biologist - Bird Group (Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife)

“Your photos of the unusual grouse you shot recently crossed my desk. I thank you for taking the time to send these great photos. Your taxidermist did a nice job as well.”
“I have to agree with you that it looks to be a cross between a spruce grouse and a ruffed grouse. I searched all my available literature on grouse and have found that there are reports of spruce and willow ptarmigan crosses, but I’ve found none with ruffed grouse. There is a spruce grouse expert in New York that I will call to see if he’s heard of it. You’ve got my curiosity up, and I will look into this further. When I learn anything new, I’ll drop you a note.”

December 4, 1994
From Paul E. Carson, Editor, Ruffed Grouse Society

“I apologize for the more than two month delay in responding to your letter and photos. Contrary to appearances, I haven’t forgotten your grouse. What I’ve been trying to do is find an expert who might give us a good, educated guess concerning the bird. I’ve gotten the name of a person I think can help. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get the photos duplicated so I wouldn’t have to send off your originals and risk losing them.”
“Thank you for sending the photos. The bird is certainly beautiful. I hope we can find out something about the grouse. It probably wouldn’t have taken this long if I could simply have shown the photos to Gordon Gullion. His death has cut down dramatically on the number of grouse experts available.”

Photo of grouse was printed in the RGS magazine.

April 12, 1996
From Ken Szabo; Grouse Tales

“Thanks for your letter and photos of April 9th. The grouse you killed in the Rangely area of Maine in undoubtedly a hybrid cross of a spruce and ruffed grouse, and luckily you had it mounted.”
From Grouse Tales, May - June, 1996
“Member Reports Bagging Hybrid Grouse”. Mark Eden of Attleboro, MA writes “Here is a photograph of an unusual grouse I had mounted. I bagged this bird on October 22, 1986 while on a grouse-hunting trip near Rangely, Maine. I believe this grouse shows characteristics of both ruffed and spruce grouse. A Wildlife Biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife agreed the bird appears to be a cross between a ruffed and spruce grouse.”

Photo of grouse was printed in Grouse Tails Newsletter



June 3, 1999
E-mail from Peter A. Eden, PHD.
"Well, some grouse molecular genetic analysis material has arrived at thelab. Using an experimental approach, which takes advantage of likely genomic chromosomal differences between these types of grouse (i.e. some gene segments from Ruffed are different size than "same" gene segments from Spruce), we might be able to detect Spruce AND Ruffed grouse DNA in tissue
specimens from the hybrid. This type of testing is possible since the two types of grouse, while having very similar genetic makeup, do differ as they have evolved separately in recent history."



Molecular Genetic Analysis of a
Hybrid Grouse Specimen

Background: An apparent hybrid Spruce/Ruffed grouse was identified on the basis of phenotypic characteristics. In order to confirm true hybrid status, evaluation of the genetic make-up of this specimen is suggested. Identification of Spruce grouse as well as Ruffed grouse molecular genetic markers, from DNA isolated from this particular bird, will prove that mating between these groups occurred.

Rationale: While the phenotype clearly suggests that this bird is a hybrid, there is no better confirmation than genetic proof of such natural breeding. This evidence eliminates any subjectivity. Moreover, by examining Spruce versus Ruffed grouse-specific genomic DNA markers, we will be able to tell whether this particular bird is an “F1” (immediate parents Spruce and Ruffed, i.e. half of genetic material comes from each type), or is an “F2” or beyond (i.e. an F1 hybrid then mated with either a pure Spruce or a Ruffed grouse, resulting in the bird that we are analyzing; that is, while it appears to be half Spruce or Ruffed, phenotypically, it may be 1/4 of either). The findings will confirm the phenotypic assessment, and will provide valuable information regarding the breeding dynamics of these grouse.

Methodology: Feathers have been obtained from the hybrid, and Spruce grouse as well as Ruffed grouse tissue has been obtained from George Barrowclough (Dept. Ornithology, Museum of Natural History in NYC). DNA will be extracted from this tissue, in Prof. Eden’s lab. Reagents needed to perform the genetic analysis have been obtained from Dr. Stuart Piertney (Dept. Zoology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland UK). While these molecular tools are specific for Red grouse, it is hoped that they will work on Spruce/Ruffed grouse DNA as well. DNA from the hybrid and from the pure Spruce and Ruffed grouse samples will be tested with the molecular genomic reagents. By analyzing the DNA products from these tests, we hope to see evidence of variation between Spruce and Ruffed grouse DNA at various markers across the grouse genome. If this is achieved, and if the hybrid specimen is truly a hybrid, we expect to observe Spruce AND Ruffed grouse markers in the hybrid DNA.

Timeline: This project is due to begin late May, 2002, and could be completed by December 2002.

Peter A. Eden, Ph.D. holds a B.S. in Microbiology from University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Ph.D. in Microbiology from University of New Hampshire, Durham. He has held the position of Scientist, Research Project Leader and Consultant at Biomeasure, Inc, Milford, MA, Research Fellow at Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME and is currently Asst. Professor and Chair for the Science Department of Marywood University, Scranton, PA.


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