Term of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

C. Ray Chandler

Committee Member 1

Stephen P. Vives

Committee Member 2

Lance McBrayer

Committee Member 3

I. Lehr Brisbin, Jr.

Abstract

The Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) is generally considered to be the primary wild ancestor of the domestic chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus). Because they are common in much of the forested habitat of South and Southeast Asia, they have never been granted any formal conservation status. However, evidence suggests that genetic introgression from free-ranging, escaped, and feral domestic chickens might be so widespread and pervasive that Red Junglefowl may be endangered or even extinct in the wild. Because genetic markers have yet to be identified, detection of introgression has been limited to qualitative morphological traits. Thus, there is a need to identify simple quantitative traits that might be used to detect such introgression. Between October 2010 and May 2011, I measured external morphological characters on 94 putatively unintrogressed Indian Red Junglefowl (G. g. murghi) -- 44 museum specimens and 50 captive birds. The latter were descended from Red Junglefowl collected from remote areas of north-central India between 1960 and 1961, and this population is considered to be one of the only captive flocks of this species with little or no introgression from domestic chickens. I also measured 44 junglefowl-chicken hybrids with known levels of introgression, and 14 domestic chickens from the population that was used to create these hybrids. Female comb size and male spur width both increased in size with increasing 2 levels of introgression, as did bill length and mass in both sexes. Using a discriminant analysis, I found that bill length, comb height and comb length are effective characters for identifying introgression in females, and bill length and spur width are most effective for males. Based on these results I propose a more complete and quantitative suite of traits that could be used to characterize the level of introgression in populations of Indian Red Junglefowl.

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