It is not just ruminants getting a fresh look into the genomic family tree; poultry specialists have built a database of 174 breeds of chickens that could shed light on genes and heritable traits that may not have been commercially important in the past but may end up being needed in the future.
The chicken breeds are described in a publicly accessible database that scientists from Germany's University of Göttingen and the Friedrich Loeffler Institute have built up in recent years with numerous international partners. This database, the Synbreed Chicken Diversity Panel (SCDP), includes information about a large proportion of the available chicken species and their diversity.
In the accompanying scientific study, the researchers genotyped 3,235 animals for nearly 600,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms, which are variations in separate genetic building blocks at specific regions of the genome that vary between individual animals, an announcement said.
The researchers created a family tree of "exceptional completeness and detail" that has been published in the journal BMC Genomics.
According to the University of Göttingen, the variety of breeds in the database ranges from wild birds to commercial broilers and egg-laying hens. In addition, it includes a range of local breeds from almost every continent as well as strains bred by hobbyists in Germany.
In the study, the research team analyzed genetic diversity within and between populations, which showed that genetic diversity is reduced both within the hobby breeds and in high-performing commercial breeds, especially in those bred for egg laying, the university said.
In contrast, there is still considerable genetic diversity in African, South American and some Asian and European breeds, the researchers said.
"It is important for the sustainability and flexibility of breeding that these very different breeds are preserved," said professors Henner Simianer and Steffen Weigend from the Center for Integrated Breeding Research at the University of Göttingen.
SCDP is a permanent data collection that is constantly being supplemented and expanded. With the publication of this study, all genotype data were uploaded to a data repository and are available to the scientific community for further analysis at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.8003909.