Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How did the chicken cross the sea?

27.03.2015

It may sound like the makings of a joke, but answering the question of how chickens crossed the sea may soon provide more than just a punch line.


Michigan State University is solving the mysterious ancestry of the feral chicken population that has overrun the Hawaiian Island of Kauai.

Photo by Dominic Wright

Michigan State University researcher Eben Gering has collaborated with a team in a study of the mysterious ancestry of the feral chicken population that has overrun the Hawaiian Island of Kauai. Their results, published in the current issue of Molecular Ecology, may aid efforts to curtail the damage of invasive species in the future, and help improve the biosecurity of domestic chicken breeds.

Domesticated chickens, humanity's leading source of animal protein, are fighting rapidly evolving pathogens and fertility issues likely caused by inbreeding. The Red Junglefowl, the chicken's closest living relative, is believed to have been introduced to Hawaii by ancient Polynesians, and is threatened by habitat loss and the contamination of gene pools from hybridization in its native Asian range.

In Kauai, a feral hybrid of the Red Junglefowl and the domesticated chicken has presented the researchers with an opportunity to study the potential practical application of invasive genetics.

"It is crucial that we identify and conserve the genetic variation that still remains in the Red Junglefowl. This variation could soon be essential for the improvement or evolutionary rescue of commercial chicken breeds," said Gering, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Zoology.

Through investigating the murky genetic origins of the chickens, the team sought to gain insights into the ongoing evolution of the population.

"We are eager to learn which combinations of genes and traits are emerging from this 'evolutionary experiment,' and to see whether our findings can translate to gains in the sustainability or efficacy of egg and poultry production," Gering said.

Gering and his team found that some chickens were a perfect match for genetic data from ancient Kauai cave bones that predate Captain Cook's 1778 discovery of Hawaii. Others, however, had genotypes that are found in chicken breeds developed recently in Europe and farmed worldwide.

The team also found evidence for a population increase in the chickens in Kauai that coincided with storms that locals believe released chickens and caused feralization over the last few decades. Taken together, the data suggest that the population may have hybrid origins, resulting from interbreeding between the ancient Red Junglefowl and their domestic counterparts.

Additional clues were found in the appearance and behavior of the chickens, which display physical traits and coloration ranging from those of ancient jungle birds to more recent domesticated breeds. Acoustic properties of rooster crows likewise ranged from those typical of the Red Junglefowl to the familiar sound heard on a domestic farm.

But why do these variations matter?

Studying the evolutionary forces at play among the feral chicken population may lead to the ability to create hardier breeds of domestic chickens.

"Darwin drew heavily from his studies of domesticated species to develop his theory of evolution," Gering said. "This can provide important insights into evolution in action within human altered landscapes, and may even someday help build a better chicken. And that would be something to crow about."

Mark Kuykendall | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Seeing on the Quick: New Insights into Active Vision in the Brain
15.08.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

nachricht New Approach to Treating Chronic Itch
15.08.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Diving robots find Antarctic winter seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide

15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Early opaque universe linked to galaxy scarcity

15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>