Biology Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches, Lectures

Insights to Feralisation from Kauai's Gallus gallus: Contingency and Adaptation in the Building of a Superchicken

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Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research Graduate Seminar Series, Windsor, Canada, November 11, 2016

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Domestic animals that escape captivity experience radical changes in selection regimes, but their evolutionary responses have not been well studied. This talk will describe ongoing assessments of the origins, variability, and recent evolution of feral chickens (Gallus gallus) on Kauai Island, Hawaii. In particular, I will highlight three findings: a) Recent admixture between domestic breeds and wild, conspecific relatives has enhanced the genetic and phenotypic variation available to selection, b) Feral genomes evince recent adaptation at loci that are distinct from previously-identified "domestication genes." These candidate "feralisation genes" have important consequences for sexual and reproductive traits and c) Kauai's feral G. gallus have transitioned from the ancestral, seasonal breeding pattern to year-round reproduction. This may stem from genetic introgression from layer breeds, and likely abetted recent population growth. These analyses were enhanced by data extracted from social media. I will therefore also discuss some possibilities and pitfalls of this novel approach to eco-evolutionary sensing. Together, our findings yield several new insights concerning feral population biology. Chiefly, we find that recombination between ancestral and artificially-selected traits can be advantageous during feralisation.

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