SREL Reprint #2631




Characterization of the genetic status of populations of red junglefowl

I. Lehr Brisbin, Jr.1, A. Townsend Peterson2, Ronald Okimoto3, and George Amato4

1Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, P.O. Drawer E, Aiken, SC 29802, USA
2The University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Dyche Hall, Lawrence, KS 66045-2454, USA
3Department of Poultry Science, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA
4Wildlife Conservation Society, 185th Street and Southern Boulevard, Bronx, NY 10460, USA

Abstract: The native range of the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus) in Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent has been the focus of studies of domestication of this species that became the foundation of a worldwide multi-billion dollar poultry industry. Such studies must be based on a thorough understanding of the behaviour, ecology, and biogeography of current as well as past populations. Although red junglefowl are considered abundant both in captivity and in the wild, and have usually not been accorded any particular conservation concern, almost all populations show morphological characteristics suggestive of past hybridization with domestic birds, and indeed pure genomes may prove to be now extinct in the wild. However, one captive population still shows two morphological characteristics considered to be indicative of genetic purity: (1) an annual moult to a dark/black eclipse plumage in the male, and (2) complete absence of combs in females. Preliminary molecular genetic studies of these birds indicate that they are more distinct from other captive strains than the latter are from domestic chickens. These captive birds may thus represent the last pure red junglefowl genomes. This paper establishes criteria for the judgment of genetic purity, in the hope that colleagues across southern Asia will assess local wild populations to develop an accurate picture of the genetic status of this species across its range.

Keywords: Red junglefowl, Gallus gallus, chicken, domestication, genome conservation, hybridization

SREL Reprint #2631

Brisbin, I. L., Jr., A. T. Peterson, R. Okimoto, and G. Amato. 2002. Characterization of the genetic status of populations of red junglefowl. Journal Bombay Natural History Society 99:217-223.

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