Gene Conservation Project Studies Chicken Ancestors

INDIA - Indian scientists are examining native Jungle Fowl to see if they are resistant to any of today's common diseases.
calendar icon 8 August 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

The ancestors of domestic chickens and poultry are being conserved and studied by scientists in case the domestic birds are eradicated by outbreak of diseases like bird flu, reports The Hindu.

The wild Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus), which was once found abundantly in the jungles of India, are the 'parents' of all modern domestic chickens in the world, scientists say.

"Epidemics like bird flu in India, Hong Kong and other parts of South-East Asia could spell doom to the poultry industry and one of the fall back options would eventually be the 'wild' Red Junglefowl," said S. Sathyakumar, a scientist with the Wildlife Institute of India and Principal Investigator of the project.

Poultry and chicken are regarded as important species for their economic and cultural significance. First domesticated in Mohenjodaro and Harappa in the Indus valley, the multi-billion dollar poultry industry is based on the wild bird.

Conservation of the 'genetically pure' wild Red Junglefowl will help scientists study the genetic traits of the important domestic animals as they and their wild ancestors have provided valuable source of genetic diversity which can be used to develop animal models for biological and medical interest, he said.

Red Junglefowl is mostly found in tropical mixed forest, dry deciduous forest, mangroves, grasslands and woodland. Loss, fragmentation and degradation of habitat and poaching for meat have threatened the population of the birds in India.

A team of scientists in WII has been working for the project, 'Conservation of Red Junglefowl in India' to identify and assess the present status and distribution of the bird population in India.

The project will identify pure wild Red Junglefowl population in India, threats to their conservation and creation of genetic maps and patenting the strains. In India, two sub-species of Red Junglefowl - G. gallus murghii and G. gallus spadiceus occur.

The work to identify pure Red Junglefowl has begun with the collection and genetic analysis of samples of blood, feather or tissue from the animals.

The birds need to be protected from poaching, hybridisation with domestic chicken and loss and degradation of habitat, scientists said.

For conservation of the birds, Sathyakumar said, "The captive wild birds in different zoos and pheasantries have to be genetically screened and the hybridised birds have to be removed from the existing captive stock."

Conservation breeding of 'genetically pure' Red Junglefowl has to be initiated on priority basis and such captive stocks have to be scientifically managed and maintained for future use in research and reintroductions, he said.

"Good quality genomic DNA will be extracted and evaluated to assess the purity of Red Junglefowl in the wild. Genetic profiles could also be used for estimating genetic relation between the fowl and domestic chicken," Sathyakumar said.

In some areas where the distribution of Red Junglefowl and Grey Junglefowl or Red purefowl overlap, this species is often confused with the other two species by the locals.

© 2000 - 2024 - Global Ag Media. All Rights Reserved | No part of this site may be reproduced without permission.