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Unscrambling the genetics of the chicken's 'blue' egg
Date:8/20/2013

an chickens. It shows the importance of viruses in shaping evolution and diversity of species. It's quite remarkable retroviruses are generally considered to integrate at random locations in the genome, and so the chance of a retrovirus integrating at more or less the same location in two chicken populations is extremely low. Moreover, when appearing in the population, the unusual egg coloration must have attracted the attention of the owners, who must be praised for having selected the trait in subsequent breeding."

Co-researcher, Dr Joram Mwacharo added: "Of course it's not only some breeds of chicken that produce blue eggs. They are commonly found across species of birds including those that lay blue eggs as well as non-blue eggs within a single population, like the cuckoo and guillemot. It's therefore entirely possible that retroviruses could be playing a part in the diversity of egg colour and patterning across avian species more generally, but this remains to be studied."

The work was initiated by Professor Olivier Hanotte whose curiosity about blue eggs was sparked on a trip to Brazil where he met Professor Jos Antonio Alcalde, co-author of the paper. He said: "This is an important discovery because some of these rarer native breeds of chicken with this unusual egg colour and high quality have become low in number and are in danger of disappearing if not conserved and indeed promoted by agriculture."

Significantly, the same findings have also been independently discovered and reported this year by a research group in China which has examined local Chinese and North American breeds.


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Contact: Emma Rayner
emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-15793
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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