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The chicken first crossed the road in Southeast Asia, ‘landmark’ gene research study finds

The red jungle fowl’s exotic plumage– and strong battles amongst dicks– may have assisted make the bird attractive to the early farmers who domesticated it.


By Andrew Lawler

It is the world’s most common farm animal along with humankind’s biggest single source of animal protein. Some 24 billion strong, it surpasses all other birds by an order of magnitude. Yet for 2 centuries, biologists have actually struggled to describe how the chicken ended up being the chicken.

Now, the very first extensive research study of the bird’s full genome concludes that individuals in northern Southeast Asia or southern China domesticated a vibrant pheasant at some point after about 7500 B.C.E. Migrants and traders then brought the bird across Asia and on to every continent except Antarctica.

” Our results contradict previous claims that chickens were domesticated in northern China and the Indus Valley,” scientists led by Ming-Shan Wang from the Chinese Academy of Sciences’s Kunming Institute of Zoology compose in a paper released today in Cell Research They likewise found that the modern-day chicken’s chief forefather is a subspecies of red jungle fowl named Gallus gallus spadiceus

” This is undoubtedly a landmark research study,” states Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist at University College London who was not involved in the effort. He adds that the results could clarify the introduction of agriculture and early trade networks, and what functions of the bird made it so attractive to people.

Charles Darwin argued the chicken descended from the red jungle fowl since the birds look like each other and can make fertile offspring; he speculated that domestication took place in India. Based on assumed chicken bones, archaeologists declared, otherwise, that people domesticated the bird 9000 years back in northern China and 4000 years earlier in Pakistan.

DNA research studies assured to solve the problem, but researchers had couple of samples from the bird’s wild loved ones. Jianlin Han, a geneticist at the Joint Lab on Animals and Forage Genetic Resources, embarked on a 20- year project to sample indigenous town chickens and wild jungle fowl near more than 120 towns across Asia and Africa.

Early riser

A subspecies of red jungle fowl ( Gallus gallus spadiceus), discovered in northern Southeast Asia, most likely resulted in the very first domesticated chickens.



Wang’s team sequenced the full genomes of 863 birds and compared them. The results suggest modern-day chickens come down mostly from domesticated and wild varieties in what is now Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and southern China (see map, right).

Wang’s group did discover some proof for a South Asian contribution: A jungle fowl belonging to the Indian subcontinent may have interbred with the chicken after its initial domestication in Southeast Asia, the group states.

The brand-new DNA information connect domesticated chickens most closely to the Southeast Asian subspecies G. g. spadiceus They suggest the family tree that became the modern chicken branched off from the jungle fowl between 12,800 and 6200 years earlier, with domestication occurring sometime after the lineages split.

Fuller questions the bird was completely domesticated prior to the arrival of rice and millet farming in northern Southeast Asia about 4500 years earlier. Hanotte acknowledges that “we require the help of archaeologists” to comprehend the human events that set off domestication.

But Jonathan Kenoyer, an archaeologist and Indus professional at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, remains hesitant that the chicken developed in Southeast Asia. “They need to get ancient DNA” to back up their claims, he says, because genomes of contemporary birds may supply minimal hints to early occasions in chicken development.

Nor does the DNA show what first attracted individuals to tame the bird.

Archaeologists are now collecting chicken bones that recommend farmers in southern China and Southeast Asia initially domesticated the bird some 3500 years back– findings that reinforce the genetic work.

Han’s group, on the other hand, is developing a huge information set based upon more than 1500 modern-day chicken genomes from Asia, Europe, and Africa. The researchers plan to evaluate chicken dispersal into Europe and Africa, as well as the hereditary variations behind characteristics such as the capability to endure illness or produce more eggs. “This study opens an entire new page in chicken genomics,” Han says.

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