In a project on the biodiversity of chickens funded by the European Commission (EC), eight laboratories collaborated to assess the genetic variation within and between 52 populations from a wide range of chicken types. Twenty-two di-nucleotide microsatellite markers were used to genotype DNA pools of 50 birds from each population. The polymorphism measures for the average, the least polymorphic population (inbred C line) and the most polymorphic population (Gallus gallus spadiceus) were, respectively, as follows: number of alleles per locus, per population: 3.5, 1.3 and 5.2; average gene diversity across markers: 0.47, 0.05 and 0.64; and proportion of polymorphic markers: 0.91, 0.25 and 1.0. These were in good agreement with the breeding history of the populations. For instance, unselected populations were found to be more polymorphic than selected breeds such as layers. Thus DNA pools are effective in the preliminary assessment of genetic variation of populations and markers. Mean genetic distance indicates the extent to which a given population shares its genetic diversity with that of the whole tested gene pool and is a useful criterion for conservation of diversity. The distribution of population-specific (private) alleles and the amount of genetic variation shared among populations supports the hypothesis that the red jungle fowl is the main progenitor of the domesticated chicken.
Keywords:genetic distance; polymorphism; red jungle fowl; DNA markers; domesticated chicken
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