Narrow genetic base of chickens

An article in the New Scientist magazine reports on a study showing that modern commercial chicken breeds have lost over half  the genetic diversity of their ancestral lines (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0806569105). This is due to the small number of breeds used in crosses.

A more extensive write-up in Scientific American highlights the consequence of this narrowing of the genetic base of our food animals in terms of vulnerability to diseases and other pressures.

There is a need for some serious ‘base-broadening’ within the poultry breeding industry, going back to wild relatives to regain some of the diversity that has been lost.

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