The effects of selective breeding on the architectural properties of the pelvic limb in broiler chickens: a comparative study across modern and ancestral populations

Paxton, H., Anthony, N. B., Corr, S. A. and Hutchinson, J. R. (2010) The effects of selective breeding on the architectural properties of the pelvic limb in broiler chickens: a comparative study across modern and ancestral populations. Journal of Anatomy, 217(2), pp. 153-166. (doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2010.01251.x) (PMID:20557402)

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Intensive artificial selection has led to the production of the modern broiler chicken, which over the last few decades has undergone a dramatic increase in growth rate and noticeable changes in body conformation. Unfortunately, this has been associated with musculoskeletal abnormalities which have altered the walking ability of these birds, raising obvious welfare concerns, as well as causing economic losses. Here we present a comparative study of ancestral and derived muscle anatomy in chickens to begin to tease apart how evolutionary alterations of muscle form in chickens have influenced their locomotor function and perhaps contributed to lameness. We measured the muscle architectural properties of the right pelvic limb in 50 birds, including the Giant Junglefowl, a commercial strain broiler and four pureline commercial broiler breeder lines (from which the broiler populations are derived) to identify which features of the broiler’s architectural design have diverged the most from the ancestral condition. We report a decline in pelvic limb muscle mass in the commercial line birds that may compromise their locomotor abilities because they carry a larger body mass. This greater demand on the pelvic limb muscles has mostly led to changes in support at the hip joint, revealing significantly larger abductors and additionally much larger medial rotators in the broiler population. Differences were seen within the commercial line bird populations, which are likely attributed to different selection pressures and may reflect differences in the walking ability of these birds. In addition, Junglefowl seem to have both greater force-generating capabilities and longer, presumably faster contracting muscles, indicative of superior musculoskeletal/locomotor function. We have provided baseline data for generating hypotheses to investigate in greater depth the specific biomechanical constraints that compromise the modern broiler’s walking ability and propose that these factors should be considered in the selection for musculoskeletal health in the chickens of the future. Our new anatomical data for a wide range of domestic and wild-type chickens is useful in a comparative context and for deeper functional analysis including computer modelling/simulation of limb mechanics.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Corr, Sandra
Authors: Paxton, H., Anthony, N. B., Corr, S. A., and Hutchinson, J. R.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Journal of Anatomy
ISSN (Online):1469-7580
Published Online:14 June 2010

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