Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ancient DNA: Barnyard chickens living just a few hundred years ago looked far different from today's chickens

Date:
April 18, 2014
Source:
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)
Summary:
Ancient DNA adds a twist to the story of how barnyard chickens came to be. Analyzing DNA from the bones of chickens that lived 200-2,300 years ago in Europe, researchers report that some of the traits we associate with modern domestic chickens -- such as their yellowish skin -- only became widespread in the last 500 years, much more recently than previously thought.

Red junglefowl.
Credit: panuruangjan / Fotolij

Ancient DNA adds a twist to the story of how barnyard chickens came to be, finds a study to be published April 21 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Analyzing DNA from the bones of chickens that lived 200-2300 years ago in Europe, researchers report that just a few hundred years ago domestic chickens may have looked far different from the chickens we know today.

The results suggest that some of the traits we associate with modern domestic chickens -- such as their yellowish skin -- only became widespread in the last 500 years, much more recently than previously thought.

"It's a blink of an eye from an evolutionary perspective," said co-author Greger Larson at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

The study is part of a larger field of research that aims to understand when, where and how humans turned wild plants and animals into the crops, pets and livestock we know today.

Generally, any mutations that are widespread in domestic plants and animals but absent from their wild relatives are assumed to have played a key role in the process, spreading as people and their livestock moved across the globe. But a growing number of ancient DNA studies tell a different tale.

Chickens are descended from a wild bird called the Red Junglefowl that humans started raising roughly 4,000-5,000 years ago in South Asia. To pinpoint the genetic changes that transformed this shy, wild bird into the chickens we know today, researchers analyzed DNA from the skeletal remains of 81 chickens retrieved from a dozen archeological sites across Europe dating from 200 to 2,300 years old.

The researchers focused on two genes known to differ between domestic chickens and their wild counterparts: a gene associated with yellow skin color, called BCDO2, and a gene involved in thyroid hormone production, called TSHR.

Though the exact function of TSHR is unknown, it may be linked to the domestic chicken's ability to lay eggs year-round -- a trait that Red Junglefowl and other wild birds don't have.

When the team compared the ancient sequences to the DNA of modern chickens, only one of the ancient chickens had the yellow skin so common in chickens today. Similarly, less than half of the ancient chickens had the version of the TSHR gene found worldwide in modern chickens.

The results suggest that these traits only became widespread within the last 500 years -- thousands of years after the first barnyard chickens came to be. "Just because a plant or animal trait is common today doesn't mean that it was bred into them from the beginning," Larson said.

"It demonstrates that the pets and livestock we know today -- dogs, chickens, horses, cows -- are probably radically different from the ones our great-great-grandparents knew," he added.

"…They are subjected to the whim of human fancy and control, [so] radical change in the way they look can be achieved in very few generations."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Flink, L., et al. Establishing the validity of domestication genes using DNA from ancient chickens. PNAS, 2014 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1308939110

Cite This Page:

National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). "Ancient DNA: Barnyard chickens living just a few hundred years ago looked far different from today's chickens." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140418141123.htm>.
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). (2014, April 18). Ancient DNA: Barnyard chickens living just a few hundred years ago looked far different from today's chickens. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140418141123.htm
National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). "Ancient DNA: Barnyard chickens living just a few hundred years ago looked far different from today's chickens." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140418141123.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Boy Attacked by Shark in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (July 24, 2014) An 8-year-old boy is bitten in the leg by a shark while vacationing at a Florida beach. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Goma Cheese Brings Whiff of New Hope to DRC

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 24, 2014) The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, mainly known for conflict and instability, is an unlikely place for the production of fine cheese. But a farm in the village of Masisi, in North Kivu is slowly transforming perceptions of the area. Known simply as Goma cheese, the Congolese version of Dutch gouda has gained popularity through out the region. Ciara Sutton reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Tyrannosaur Pack-Hunting Theory Aided By New Footprints

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A new study claims a set of prehistoric T-Rex footprints supports the theory that the giant predators hunted in packs instead of alone. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

Bill Gates: Health, Agriculture Key to Africa's Development

AFP (July 24, 2014) Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said Thursday, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia. Duration: 00:36 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins