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Dev Psychobiol. 1984 Jan;17(1):1-10.

Comparative analysis of the development of wing-flapping and flight in the fowl.


The development of wing-flapping rate, lateral flight, wing area, and the ratio of wing area to body weight are described in the Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica) and three chickens (Gallus gallus) to determine common developmental phenomena and to assess the effects of domestication. The chickens were the White Leghorn (a commercial egg producer), the Cornish X Rock (a commercial meat producer), and the Red Jungle fowl (the probable ancestor of domestic chickens). All birds performed drop-evoked wing-flapping on the day of hatching, at least 1 week before lateral flight was possible. Flapping rate of chickens doubled between hatching (approximately 4-6 Hz) and 13 days (approximately 9-12 Hz), after which it leveled off. Japanese quail (JQ) maintained a high flapping rate (approximately 11-13 Hz) during the 21 days after hatching. The Jungle fowl (JF) and JQ flapped the fastest and the White Leghorn (WL) and Cornish X Rock (CR) chickens flapped the slowest. The JF, WL, and JQ developed lateral flight at 7-9 days. The CR first flew 1-2 weeks later but subsequently became flightless. The WL, JF, and JQ had similar ratios of wing area to body weight; the ratios increased to a peak at 11-15 days and later declined. The ratio of the very heavy, essentially flightless, CR was approximately one-half that of the flighted JQ, WL, and JF. The wing-flapping frequencies of the domestic WL and CR chickens approximated that of the JF, suggesting that domestication did not affect the motor pattern generator for flight. The artificial selection of the CR for high body weight drastically diminished its flight performance by producing an unfavorable ratio of wing area to body weight. The JF and the domestic WL both flew well and had similar ratios. Domestication affected flight performance but not the neural circuitry producing wing-flapping. The central nervous system is much more conservative in its response to selection than the peripheral effector structures that it drives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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