Purdue University animal sciences professor Bill Muir was part of an international research team that analyzed the genetic lines of commercial chickens used to produce meat and eggs around the world. Researchers found that commercial birds are missing more than half of the genetic diversity native to the species, possibly leaving them vulnerable to new diseases and raising questions about their long-term sustainability.
"Just what is missing is hard to determine," Muir said. "But recent concerns over avian flu point to the need to ensure that even rare traits, such as those associated with disease resistance, are not totally missing in commercial flocks."
He said it's also important to preserve non-commercial breeds and wild birds for the purpose of safeguarding genetic diversity and that interbreeding additional species with commercial lines might help protect the industry.
The research, led by Hans Cheng of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is in Monday's (Nov. 3) early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences at http://www.pnas.org/papbyrecent.shtml.
Historically, chicken producers selected birds for breeding based on certain desirable traits. Size was important for broilers, while egg production was critical for layers. Despite the fact that hundreds of chicken breeds exist, Muir said today's commercial broilers descend from about three lines of chickens, and poultry used in egg production come from only one specialized line.
The research team included government, university and industrial scientists who conducted the study using the recently sequenced chicken genome. Obtaining DNA from commercial birds, they identified the number of alleles found throughout. Alleles are the genes that pair up to produce specific traits such as eye color. By comparing the commercial breeds with native and non-commercial birds, they found that commercial lines had lost up to 90 percent of alleles in some cases.
"We suggest interbreeding some experimental commercial poultry lines with native or standard breeds as a backup plan, or ace in the hole, to help the industry meet future challenges, as traits such as disease resistance may be found among the rare alleles of other birds," he said.
Muir said maintaining a healthy genetic reservoir in food-producing animals is crucial in order to protect the nutritional demands of a growing global society. Poultry is the leading meat consumed in the United States and in most other countries, with chicken meat production increasing by 436 percent since 1970, he said.
Muir also is project co-leader in a $10 million international effort to test a breeding strategy called whole-genome selection that could be used to improve the accuracy and efficiency of breeding methods. He said companies could use this technique to select for important parts of the DNA of donor birds from the standard or ancestral breeds and integrate those into commercial lines without dragging bad DNA into industrial populations. The approach selects breeding poultry based on specific traits such as bone density, animal well-being, feed efficiency and disease resistance
Collaborators in the commercial breed analysis research included Cheng, Sean MacEachern and Huanmin Zhang of the USDA Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory; Gane Ka-Shu Wong of the University of Alberta, Canada and the Beijing Institute of Genomics; Yong Zhang and Jun Wang of the Beijing Institute of Genomics; Martien Groenen, Richard Crooijmans and Hendrik-Jan Megens of Wageningen University, Netherlands; Ron Okimoto of Cobb-Vantress Inc., Arkansas; Addie Vereijken, Annemieke Jungerius and Gerard Albers of Hendrix Genetics, Netherlands; Cindy Taylor Lawley of Illumina Inc., California; and Mary Delany of the University of California, Davis.Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-2722, firstname.lastname@example.org
Beth Forbes | EurekAlert!
Cryo-electron microscopy achieves unprecedented resolution using new computational methods
24.03.2017 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
How cheetahs stay fit and healthy
24.03.2017 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy