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Open AccessArticle

Genomewide Mapping of Selection Signatures and Genes for Extreme Feather Pecking in Two Divergently Selected Laying Hen Lines

1
Institute of Animal Science, University of Hohenheim, Garbenstraße 17, 70593 Stuttgart, Germany
2
Department of Animal Science, University of Göttingen, Burckhardtweg 2, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(2), 262; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020262
Received: 10 December 2019 / Revised: 28 January 2020 / Accepted: 4 February 2020 / Published: 6 February 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feather Pecking in Laying Hens and Its Effects on Welfare)
Feather pecking is a behavior frequently occurring in commercial layer flocks. It often leads to skin injuries and cannibalism. Besides economic losses, severe animal welfare problems cannot be ignored. Previous research has shown that the trait is heritable. Thus breeding against feather pecking is possible, but phenotyping in a commercial environment is economically unfeasible at the moment because of the lack of proper techniques. Therefore, understanding the genetic background of the trait is mandatory to establish a genomic breeding program. This would require genotypic information of the hens, which is feasible under practical conditions. In the present study, we used different methods to identify regions in the genome that influence feather pecking and extreme feather pecking. We found one trait associated with the genomic region. The use of genotypic information from this region in terms of selection against the undesired behavior may help to improve animal welfare in layer flocks.
Feather pecking (FP) is a longstanding serious problem in commercial flocks of laying hens. It is a highly polygenic trait and the genetic background is still not completely understood. In order to find genomic regions influencing FP, selection signatures between laying hen lines divergently selected for high and low feather pecking were mapped using the intra-population iHS and the inter-population FST approach. In addition, the existence of an extreme subgroup of FP hens (EFP) across both selected lines has been demonstrated by fitting a mixture of negative binomial distributions to the data and calculating the posterior probability of belonging to the extreme subgroup (pEFP) for each hen. A genomewide association study (GWAS) was performed for the traits pEFP and FP delivered (FPD) with a subsequent post GWAS analysis. Mapping of selection signatures revealed no clear regions under selection. GWAS revealed a region on Chromosome 1, where the existence of a QTL influencing FP is likely. The candidate genes found in this region are a part of the GABAergic system, which has already been linked to FP in previous studies. Despite the polygenic nature of FP, selection on these candidate genes may reduce FP.
Keywords: laying hens; selection signatures; extreme feather pecking; divergent selection; QTL laying hens; selection signatures; extreme feather pecking; divergent selection; QTL
MDPI and ACS Style

Iffland, H.; Wellmann, R.; Schmid, M.; Preuß, S.; Tetens, J.; Bessei, W.; Bennewitz, J. Genomewide Mapping of Selection Signatures and Genes for Extreme Feather Pecking in Two Divergently Selected Laying Hen Lines. Animals 2020, 10, 262.

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