Chicken genome mapping and biodiversity

In addition to the study of wild birds, we have for many years used chickens as a model organism.

White chickens.
White broiler chickens (Gallus gallus)

In addition to the study of wild birds, we have for many years used chickens as a model organism.

Projects on chickens have allowed us to:

  • Test techniques developed for the study of other organisms in a standard bird species.
  • Investigate the basic structure of the bird genome in a commercial important species for which DNA from large pedigrees is readily available.

Our research on chickens has led to collaborations with many other research institutes as well as with commercial and private poultry breeders. Recently we have been involved in identifying genetic markers in the chicken genome, which will allow us to construct a map of chicken chromosomes.

This ChickMap project involved seven other labs in Europe (funded by the EC) and the USA who mapped of the chicken genome.

We have two ongoing chicken studies within the laboratory that use the results from the ChickMap project to help answer more questions about the chicken genome:

Mapping of quantitative trait loci for male fertility traits

Biodiversity in European chickens

Associated links:

Roslin Institute:

Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences Animal Breeding and Genetics Group:

Michigan State University:

Institute of Animal Health (Compton):

Cellular Genetics Lab (INRA):

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

Poultry Science Association:

Poultry breeds:


Morisson M, Plisson-Petit F, Dawson D, Pitel F, Fillon V, Gellin J, Burke T, Vignal A (1999) Characterisation of 33 chicken microsatellite loci: 33 new locations on reference maps. Animal Genetics 30, 382-405.

Wardle A, Dawson D, Gibbs M, Parham A, Burke T (1999) Further development of chicken microsatellite loci: 21 markers mapped. Animal Genetics 30, 225-244.

McConnell SKJ, Dawson DA, Wardle A, Burke T (1999) The isolation and mapping of 19 tetranucleotide microsatellite markers in the chicken. Animal Genetics 30, 183-189.

Dawson D, McConnell S, Wardle A, Gibbs M, Burke T (1998) Characterizaton and mapping of fifteen novel chicken microsatellite loci. Animal Genetics 29, 159-160.

Gibbs M, Dawson DA, McCamley C, Wardle AF, Armour JAL, Burke T (1997) Chicken microsatellite markers isolated from libraries enriched for simple tandem repeats. Animal Genetics 28, 401-417.

Hanotte O, Pugh A, Maücher C, Dawson D, Burke T (1997) Nine novel chicken microsatellite loci and their utility in other Galliformes. Animal Genetics 28, 311-313.

Gibbs M, Dawson D, McCamley C, Burke T (1995) Ten novel chicken dinucleotide repeat polymorphisms. Animal Genetics 26, 443-444.

Bruford MW, Burke T (1994) Minisatellite markers in the chicken genome. I. Distribution and abundance of minisatellites in multilocus DNA fingerprints. Animal Genetics 25, 381-389.

Bruford MW, Hanotte O, Burke T (1994) Minisatellite markers in the chicken genome. II. Isolation and characterization of minisatellite loci. Animal Genetics 25, 391-399.

Mapping of quantitative trait loci for male fertility traits in the chicken

This project is concerned with the development and application of the microsatellite marker map developed by ChickMap to localise genes of interest, in particular those that contribute to male traits and fertility, and is being carried out in collaboration with the Roslin Institute. Such genes are known as "quantitative trait loci" (QTLs).

The present work aims to complete a whole-genome scan in the offspring of an egg-layer x broiler cross known to segregate for traits of interest. This is being achieved by genotyping multiple microsatellite loci simultaneously on the ABI377 by using fluorescently-labelled microsatellite primers. The data obtained in this way will allow us to determine the location of QTLs in the chicken genome by following their co-inheritance with the markers.

Measurements have already been made at Roslin of many male traits including food intake, metabolic rate, spermatozoa concentration and quality, secondary sexual characteristics, articular cartilage disorders and behavioural characteristics. Ultimately, this work may lead to the isolation of specific genes of particular evolutionary significance because of their contribution to life history differences or sexual competition, and potentially of value to poultry breeding programmes.

This work has been funded by the EC and is currently funded by the BBSRC (


Nicolas Chaline (2000)

Matthew Bradshaw (2000)

Karen Bailey (1999-2000)

Steven Darby (1999-2000)


Dr. Dave Burt, Roslin Institute, UK

Dr. Martien Groenen, Institute of Animal Sciences, Wageningen, Netherlands

Dr. Hans Cheng, Michigan State University,USA

Associated links

Roslin Institute:

Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences Animal Breeding and Genetics group:

Michigan State University:

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