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, email@example.com
Beth Forbes | EurekAlert!
Mass spectrometry sheds new light on thallium poisoning cold case
14.12.2018 | University of Maryland
Protein involved in nematode stress response identified
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.
Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...
What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...
A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.
The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...
A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.
Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...
Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...
12.12.2018 | Event News
10.12.2018 | Event News
06.12.2018 | Event News
14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy