News FocusAnimal Domestication

In Search of the Wild Chicken

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Science  23 Nov 2012:
Vol. 338, Issue 6110, pp. 1020-1024
DOI: 10.1126/science.338.6110.1020

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Researchers agree that the red jungle fowl gave rise to the barnyard chicken somewhere in South Asia. But they agree on little else. Some contend that domestication took place 8000 years ago; others suggest that tame chickens are only 4000 years old. Some say the bird was domesticated only once; others look to several independent centers of domestication. The genes of isolated populations of red jungle fowl are now being sequenced (see sidebar) as part of a larger effort to understand the world's most common bird and biggest source of animal protein. The proliferation of factory farms, mass bird deaths from avian influenza, and dwindling diversity in chickens have raised concerns about this critical source of food.