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Behav Genet. 2002 Nov;32(6):423-33.

QTL analysis of a red junglefowl x White Leghorn intercross reveals trade-off in resource allocation between behavior and production traits.

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Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Section of Ethology, POB 234, SE-532 23 Skara, Sweden.


Behaviors with high energetic costs may decrease in frequency in domestic animals as a response to selection for increased production. The aim of this study was to quantify production traits, foraging behavior, and social motivation in F2 progeny from a White Leghorn x red junglefowl intercross (n = 751-1046) and to perform QTL analyses on the behavioral traits. A foraging-social maze was used for behavioral testing, which consisted of four identical arms and a central box. In two arms there was ad libitum access to the birds' usual food, and in the other two there was novel food (sunflower seeds) mixed with cat litter. In one arm with each of the two food sources, social stimuli were simulated by the presence of a mirror. Each bird could therefore feed on novel or well known food either alone or in the perceived company of a conspecific. Egg production, sexual maturity (females), food intake, and growth were measured individually, and residual food intake and metabolic body weight were estimated using standard methods. A genome scan using 104 microsatellite markers was carried out to identify QTLs affecting behavioral traits. Phenotypic growth rates at different ages showed weak associations in both sexes. Sexual maturity and egg weight were not strongly correlated to growth, indicating that these traits are not genetically linked. Time spent in each arm and in the central part of the maze was analyzed using principal component analyses. Four principal components (PC) were extracted, each reflecting a pattern of behavior in the maze. Females with early onset of sexual maturity scored higher on the PC1 reflecting preference for free food without social stimuli, and females with higher egg production scored higher on the PC2 reflecting exploration. Males with an overall higher growth rate and higher residual food intake scored higher on the PC3, which possibly reflected fear of the test situation, and tended to score higher on the PC4 reflecting low contrafreeloading. Significant QTLs were found for PC1 and PC4 scores on chromosomes 27 and 7, respectively. The location of the QTLs coincided with known QTLs for growth rate and body weight. The results suggest a trade-off between energy-demanding behavior and high production and that some of this may be caused by genetic linkage or pleiotropic gene effects.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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