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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is it a chicken or a turkey? No, it's a churkey


'Churkey': Scientists identified a genetic mutation as the reason why the Transylvanian Naked Neck chicken sheds its feathers

Its naked neck has long ruffled feathers among both scientists and poultry fanciers.

Is it there because this fowl is a hybrid of a turkey and a chicken? Many once mistakenly believed that to be true, with the result the bird is sometimes still called a 'turken'.

In fact, the Transylvanian Naked Neck, to use its proper name, is a chicken.

But the reason for its mysterious bald patch has continued to intrigue, with home-spun theories abounding.

Some like to think it is Mother Nature's way of giving us something easier to pluck than the average bird. Others have archly speculated (bearing in mind the province the bird is named after) it is to give vampires easier access.

Researchers found that the way vitamin A is converted by the bird's skin, combined with a protein in the flesh, allowed it to shed feathers around its neck

Now, at last, the heated debate over its curious appearance can cease. For a DNA study by scientists at a British university has discovered the bird developed its distinctive look to stay cool.

Dr Denis Headon, who led the research at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said the findings could help breeders produce chickens more suited to hot countries.

'Naked neck chickens have no feathers whatsoever on their necks, and if you were to pluck one you'd discover fewer feathers on their bodies as well,' he said.

'But they behave like normal chickens, they do lay good eggs and are also very popular for their meat. They are, however, more resistant to heat than normal chickens.

The study found that their naked neck is the result of a random genetic mutation that causes the overproduction of a feather-blocking molecule called BMP12.

The mutation first arose in domestic chickens in northern Romania hundreds of years ago, making them look like they have head of a turkey on a chicken's body with a long, deep-red neck in between.

source: dailymail


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