Cause of Black Abdomen in Chinese Broilers Identified

CHINA - The accumulation of a natural pigment has been identified as the cause of 'black abdomen' in a breed of Chinese chickens.
calendar icon 11 April 2014
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A suspected case of localised visceral hyperpigmentation was described for a breed of broiler in China by J. Wang and colleagues at Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

The black abdomens of affected broilers were found to have been caused by accumulation of melanin produced by melanocytes in visceral peritonea, they reported in Poultry Science.

The researchers used optical microscopy to observe the accumulation of pigments in the abdominal skin and visceral peritoneum. Electron microscopy was used to further study the ultrastructure of the pigmented peritoneum, and pigment granules resembling melanosomes at different stages were found, and melanocytes were present in this tissue. Infrared spectroscopy was used to analyse the physical-chemical properties of pigments extracted from these broilers.

Using synthetic melanin as a reference and the melanin from the peritoneum of Silkie fowls as a control, the pigments in the peritonea of these broilers were found to be melanin, and it had a chemical structure similar to that of melanin from the Silkie fowl peritoneum.


Wang J., Y. Wang, C. Luo, H. Qu and D. Shu. 2014. Accumulation of melanin in the peritoneum causes black abdomens in broilers. Poultry Science. 93(3):742-746. doi: 10.3382/ps.2013-03433

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