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Current strategies for the assessment and evaluation of genetic diversity in chicken resources

  • S. Weigend (a1) and M.N. Romanov (a2)

Chicken genetic resources comprise a wide range of breeds and populations including red jungle fowl (the assumed progenitor of all domestic breeds), native and fancy breeds, middle level food producers, industrial stocks and specialised lines. Based on the suggestion that the more distant a breed or population is the more likely it is to carry unique genetic features, the assessment of genetic distances by means of molecular marker information may provide useful information for initial evaluation of chicken genetic resources. During the last two decades several molecular marker classes have become available. Variable numbers of tandem repeat loci, in particular microsatellites, have been successfully used in chicken diversity studies. Genetic diversity measures using the highly polymorphic variable number of tandem repeat lociyield reliable and accurate information for the study of genetic relationships between chicken populations. First results of the European project on chicken biodiversity (AVIANDIV) obtained from microsatellite typing in DNA pools of 51 diverse chicken breeds showed that jungle fowl populations, traditional unselected breeds and broiler lines appear to be widely heterogeneous populations that may include a large portion of the genetic diversity of the tested breeds. In contrast, highly selected strains (layers and experimental lines) are characterised by a lower polymorphism. They behave as outliers from the set of breeds sampled. Single nucleotide polymorphism is a new and very promising molecular marker system which offers opportunities to assess the genetic diversity in farm animal species differently by investigating the mode and extent of changes in certain positions in the genome.

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