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Concept: Phasianidae


This report describes the results of radiological, histological and molecular examination of three farm-reared red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) affected by candidiasis.

Concepts: Candidiasis, Phasianidae, Partridge, Alectoris, Red-legged Partridge


In recent years, a number of studies about Histomonas meleagridis, and more specifically about experiments in vivo involving H. meleagridis to investigate the pathogenicity and efficacy of drugs or vaccines, have been published. Together with older publications, a considerable amount of information about experimental infections with H. meleagridis exist, which is helpful for planning future animal studies and can reduce the number of birds used in such studies toward better animal welfare. One hundred sixty-seven publications describing experimental infections with H. meleagridis were published in scientific journals between 1920 and 2012. One hundred forty-two of these publications describe infections of turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) and 52 infections of chickens (Gallus gallus). In 18 studies, experiments involving other species were done. The most popular routes of infection were the intracloacal application of histomonal trophozoites from culture material, from lesions or from feces of infected birds, or using larvae of the cecal worm Heterakis gallinarum (83 studies) and the oral application of eggs or other stages of the cecal worm containing histomonal stages (83 studies). During the last 10 years, intracloacal application of trophozoites has become the most popular way to experimentally infect birds with H. meleagridis due to its high reproducibility and reliability. In most studies, infection doses of several 10,000 or 100,000 histomonal trophozoites were used for infection, and the resulting mortality in turkeys was more than 70 %. First mortality can occur as early as 6 days p.i.; peak mortality usually is 13-15 days p.i. Lower infection doses may delay mortality about 2 days. In chickens infected by the intracloacal route, mortality and clinical signs are rare, but infection rates are similar. Cecal lesions can be observed from 3 to 4 days p.i., lesions up to 3 weeks p.i.; liver lesions may be lacking completely or be present only in a small number of birds. In most studies infecting birds with Heterakis eggs containing histomonal stages, several 100 to 1,000 Heterakis eggs were used. However, lower doses might be sufficient, as infection with as few as 58 eggs per bird caused a mortality up to 90 % in turkeys. Clinical symptoms start 9 days p.i., and first mortality occurs after 12 days, while most of the infected birds die between 19 and 21 days p.i. The infectivity of Heterakis eggs containing histomonal stages for chickens is similar as for turkeys, but mortality and clinical signs are rare. Further infection was done by oral application of histomonal trophozoites either grown in culture or using lesions or feces of infected birds (26 studies). These yielded very mixed results, with infection rates between 0 and more than 80 % in turkeys and chickens. After successful oral infection of turkeys, mortality occurs at roughly the same time as after intracloacal infection. Further 18 studies employed seeder birds to infect in-contact birds. Other means of infection were exposure to contaminated soil or litter (22 studies), feeding contaminated earthworms (7 studies), intracecal inoculation (4 studies), or parenteral injection (4 studies). Main methods to assess the course of the infection were mortality, observation of clinical signs and pathological lesions, monitoring of the weight of the infected birds, and detection of the parasite by various methods.

Concepts: Infection, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Chicken, Turkey, Phasianidae, Galliformes, Blackhead disease, Heterakis gallinarum


Cognitive processes are often biased by emotions. In humans, affective disorders are accompanied by pessimistic judgement, while optimistic judgement is linked to emotional stability. Similar to humans, animals tend to interpret ambiguous stimuli negatively after experiencing stressful events, although the long-lasting impact on judgement bias has rarely been investigated. We measure judgement bias in female chicks (Gallus gallus domesticus) after exposure to cold stress, and before and after exposure to additional unpredictable stressors. Additionally, we explore if brain monoamines can explain differences in judgement bias. Chicks exposed to cold stress did not differ in judgement bias compared to controls, but showed sensitivity to additional stressors by having higher motivation for social reinstatement. Environmental complexity reduced stress-induced negative judgement bias, by maintaining an optimistic bias in individuals housed in complex conditions even after stress exposure. Moreover, judgement bias was related to dopamine turnover rate in mesencephalon, with higher activity in individuals that had a more optimistic response. These results demonstrate that environmental complexity can buffer against negative effects of additive stress and that dopamine relates to judgement bias in chicks. These results reveal that both internal and external factors can mediate emotionally biased judgement in animals, thus showing similarities to findings in humans.

Concepts: Psychology, Affect, Difference, Chicken, Emotion, Red Junglefowl, Phasianidae, Grey Junglefowl


Acute stress triggers peripheral vasoconstriction, causing a rapid, short-term drop in skin temperature in homeotherms. We tested, for the first time, whether this response has the potential to quantify stress, by exhibiting proportionality with stressor intensity. We used established behavioural and hormonal markers: activity level and corticosterone level, to validate a mild and more severe form of an acute restraint stressor in hens (Gallus gallus domesticus). We then used infrared thermography (IRT) to non-invasively collect continuous temperature measurements following exposure to these two intensities of acute handling stress. In the comb and wattle, two skin regions with a known thermoregulatory role, stressor intensity predicted the extent of initial skin cooling, and also the occurrence of a more delayed skin warming, providing two opportunities to quantify stress. With the present, cost-effective availability of IRT technology, this non-invasive and continuous method of stress assessment in unrestrained animals has the potential to become common practice in pure and applied research.

Concepts: Time, Chicken, Black body, Red Junglefowl, Phasianidae, Grey Junglefowl, Thermography, Thermal radiation


Rabies is a fatal encephalitis caused by viruses belonging to the genus Lyssavirus of the family Rhabdoviridae. It is a viral disease primarily affecting mammals, though all warm blooded animals are susceptible. Experimental rabies virus infection in birds has been reported, but naturally occurring infection of birds has been documented very rarely.

Concepts: Infection, Bird, Chicken, Rabies, Phasianidae, Galliformes, Mononegavirales, Lyssavirus


The world’s most numerous bird, the domestic chicken, and their wild ancestor, the red junglefowl, have long been used as model species for animal behaviour research. Recently, this research has advanced our understanding of the social behaviour, personality, and cognition of fowl, and demonstrated their sophisticated behaviour and cognitive skills. Here, we overview some of this research, starting with describing research investigating the well-developed senses of fowl, before presenting how socially and cognitively complex they can be. The realisation that domestic chickens, our most abundant production animal, are behaviourally and cognitively sophisticated should encourage an increase in general appraise and fascination towards them. In turn, this should inspire increased use of them as both research and hobby animals, as well as improvements in their unfortunately often poor welfare.

Concepts: Psychology, Bird, Cognition, Chicken, Red Junglefowl, Phasianidae, Junglefowl, Galliformes


Galliform birds (relatives of the chicken and turkey) have attracted substantial attention due to their importance to society and value as model systems. This makes understanding the evolutionary history of Galliformes, especially the species-rich family Phasianidae, particularly interesting and important for comparative studies in this group. Previous studies have differed in their conclusions regarding galliform phylogeny. Some of these studies have suggested that specific clades within this order underwent rapid radiations, potentially leading to the observed difficulty in resolving their phylogenetic relationships. Here we presented analyses of six nuclear intron sequences and two mitochondrial regions, an amount of sequence data larger than many previous studies, and expanded taxon sampling by collecting data from 88 galliform species and four anseriform outgroups. Our results corroborated recent studies describing relationships among the major families, and provided further evidence that the traditional division of the largest family, the Phasianidae into two major groups (“pheasants” and “partridges”) is not valid. Within the Phasianidae, relationships among many genera have varied among studies and there has been little consensus for the placement of many taxa. Using this large dataset, with substantial sampling within the Phasianidae, we obtained strong bootstrap support to confirm some previously hypothesized relationships and we were able to exclude others. In addition, we added the first nuclear sequence data for the partridge and quail genera Ammoperdix, Caloperdix, Excalfactoria, and Margaroperdix, placing these taxa in the galliform tree of life with confidence. Despite the novel insights obtained by combining increased sampling of taxa and loci, our results suggest that additional data collection will be necessary to solve the remaining uncertainties.

Concepts: Bird, Phylogenetic nomenclature, Phylogenetic tree, Phylogenetics, Cladistics, Phasianidae, Galliformes, Partridge


Chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is today one of the most widespread domesticated species and is a main source of protein in the human diet. However, for thousands of years exploitation of chickens was confined to symbolic and social domains such as cockfighting. The question of when and where chickens were first used for economic purposes remains unresolved. The results of our faunal analysis demonstrate that the Hellenistic (fourth-second centuries B.C.E.) site of Maresha, Israel, is the earliest site known today where economic exploitation of chickens was widely practiced. We base our claim on the exceptionally high frequency of chicken bones at that site, the majority of which belong to adult individuals, and on the observed 2:1 ratio of female to male bones. These results are supported further by an extensive survey of faunal remains from 234 sites in the Southern Levant, spanning more than three millennia, which shows a sharp increase in the frequency of chicken during the Hellenistic period. We further argue that the earliest secure evidence for economic exploitation of chickens in Europe dates to the first century B.C.E. and therefore is predated by the finds in the Southern Levant by at least a century. We suggest that the gradual acclimatization of chickens in the Southern Levant and its gradual integration into the local economy, the latter fully accomplished in the Hellenistic period, was a crucial step in the adoption of this species in European husbandry some 100 y later.

Concepts: Bird, Chicken, Domestication, Red Junglefowl, Phasianidae, Grey Junglefowl, Junglefowl, Rooster


Chickens represent by far the most important poultry species, yet the number, locations, and timings of their domestication have remained controversial for more than a century. Here we report ancient mitochondrial DNA sequences from the earliest archaeological chicken bones from China, dating back to ∼10,000 B.P. The results clearly show that all investigated bones, including the oldest from the Nanzhuangtou site, are derived from the genus Gallus, rather than any other related genus, such as Phasianus. Our analyses also suggest that northern China represents one region of the earliest chicken domestication, possibly dating as early as 10,000 y B.P. Similar to the evidence from pig domestication, our results suggest that these early domesticated chickens contributed to the gene pool of modern chicken populations. Moreover, our results support the idea that multiple members of the genus Gallus, specifically Gallus gallus and Gallus sonneratii contributed to the gene pool of the modern domestic chicken. Our results provide further support for the growing evidence of an early mixed agricultural complex in northern China.

Concepts: DNA, Species, Chicken, Meat, Domestication, Red Junglefowl, Phasianidae, Grey Junglefowl


More than 20 years after characterization of the key regulator of mammalian energy-balance, leptin, we identified the leptin (LEP) genes of chicken (Gallus gallus) and duck (Anas platyrhynchos). The extreme GC-content (~70%), the location in a genomic region with low-complexity repetitive and palindromic sequence elements, the relatively low sequence conservation and low level of expression have hampered the identification of these genes until now. In vitro expressed chicken and duck leptins specifically activated signaling through the chicken leptin-receptor in cell culture. In situ hybridization demonstrated expression of LEP mRNA in granular and Purkinje cells of the cerebellum, anterior pituitary, and in embryonic limb-buds, somites and branchial arches suggesting roles in adult brain control of energy balance and during embryonic development. The expression patterns of LEP and the leptin receptor (LEPR) were explored in chicken, duck and quail (Coturnix japonica) using RNA-seq experiments available in the Short Read Archive and by qPCR. In adipose tissue, LEP and LEPR were scarcely transcribed and the expression level was not correlated to adiposity. Our identification of the leptin genes in chicken and duck genomes resolves a long lasting controversy regarding the existence of leptin genes in these species. This identification was confirmed by sequence and structural similarity, conserved exon-intron boundaries, detection in numerous genomic and transcriptomic datasets and characterization by PCR, qPCR, in situ hybridization and bioassays. Our results point to an autocrine/paracrine mode of action for bird leptin instead of being a circulating hormone as in mammals.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Genome, Adipose tissue, Leptin, Phasianidae