Biology Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Contingencies and Parallels in the Rapid Evolution of Feral Populations

Event Name/Location

BEACON Congress, East Lansing, Michigan, August 8-11, 2018

Presntation Date


Document Type





Adaptation, Invasion biology, Population genomics, Rapid evolution


To better understand feralization, we compared 1) Kauai hybrid chickens (domestic chicken x wild Red Junglefowl), and 2) Bermuda chickens of solely domestic origin. Both populations evinced rapid, recent evolution at genomic loci controlling development, behavior and reproduction. The specific loci involved, however, showed little overlap among populations, or with known 'domestication genes'. To study these populations' trait evolution, we utilized field samples, museum specimens, and social media. Kauai hybrids were intermediate between their wild and domesticated source populations, becoming more 'chicken-like' after recent hurricanes that released domestic birds from captivity. Bermuda chickens, in contrast showed more domesticated phenotypes. They also harbored derived, artificially-selected traits that suggest co-founding from several historically popular, divergently-selected, chicken breeds. Overall, feralization appears to drive rapid and somewhat predictable evolution of behavior and reproduction in both study systems. At the same time, variation within and among the populations was partly explained by their idiosyncratic founding histories.

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