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Behav Genet. 2011 Mar;41(2):312-22. doi: 10.1007/s10519-010-9379-4. Epub 2010 Jul 11.

Genotype on the pigmentation regulating PMEL17 gene affects behavior in chickens raised without physical contact with conspecifics.

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IFM Biology, Division of Zoology, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.


Chickens homozygous for the Dominant white or wild-type allele of PMEL17 were subjected to a broad phenotyping in order to detect consistent differences between genotypes. To exclude feather pecking, the chickens were individually housed without physical contact, from the day of hatching, and tested for social, aggressive, fear and exploratory behaviors, and corticosterone and testosterone levels were assessed. In a principal component analysis, 53.2% of the behavior variation was explained by two factors. Factor one was an activity and social factor, and there was a significant effect of genotype on the factor scores. On factor two, related to aggressive behavior, there were significant effects of genotype, sex and their interaction. There were no genotype effects on hormone levels or any other measured non-behavioral phenotypes. Hence, differences in behavior between PMEL17 genotypes remained when negative social experiences were excluded, indicating a direct pleiotropic effect of the gene on behavior.

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