Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Darwin was wrong about the wild origin of the chicken

29.02.2008
Charles Darwin maintained that the domesticated chicken derives from the red jungle fowl, but new research from Uppsala University now shows that the wild origins of the chicken are more complicated than that.

The researchers mapped the genes that give most domesticated chickens yellow legs and found to their surprise that this genetic heredity derives from a closely related species, the grey jungle fowl. The study is being published today in the Web edition of PLoS Genetics.

“Our studies show that even though most of the genes in domesticated fowls come from the red jungle fowl, at least one other species must have contributed, specifically the grey jungle fowl,” says Jonas Eriksson, a doctoral student at Uppsala University.

It is most likely the case that the grey jungle fowl was crossed with an early form of the domesticated chicken. The genes for yellow skin are spread among billions of domesticated chickens around the world. Darwin’s studies of domesticated animals were of key importance to his theory of evolution, and he also explained the wild origins of domesticated animals.

“What’s ironic is that Darwin thought that more than one wild species had contributed to the development of the dog, but that the chicken came from only one wild species, the red jungle fowl. Now it turns out that it’s just the opposite way around,” says Greger Larson, a researcher at Uppsala University and Durham University in England.

The yellow leg color is a result of fodder: the more yellow carotenoids there are in the feed, the yellower the legs. The gene that these researchers have now identified codes for an enzyme that breaks down carotenoids and releases vitamin A. This gene is shut down in skin but fully active in other tissues in chickens with yellow legs. The consequence is that yellow carotenoids are stored in the skin in these chickens. This is called a regulatory mutation since the coding sequence of the gene is intact, but its regulation is modified.

“Our study is a clear example of the importance of regulatory mutations in the course of evolution. What we don’t know is why humans bred this characteristic. Maybe chickens with bright yellow legs were seen as being healthier or more fertile than other chickens, or were we simply charmed by their distinct appearance?” wonders Professor Leif Andersson, who directed the project.

The scientists believe that the same gene may well be of significance in explaining the pink color of the flamingo, the yellow leg color of many birds of prey, and the reddish meat of the salmon. These characteristics are all caused by carotenoids. The gene may also influence the skin color of humans to some extent.

Anneli Waara | alfa
Further information:
http://genetics.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371%2Fjournal.pgen.1000010.eor
http://www.uu.se

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

nachricht Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>