Evolutionary change emanating from differential contribution of genotypes to the next generation can determine success in survival and reproduction in chickens. For extensively raised chickens reared under low-input production systems in smallholder farming areas, conditions of resources deprivation and exposure to diverse and threatening natural selection pressures are common in many countries worldwide. Numerous studies have demonstrated that village chickens and other extensively raised chicken populations represent a valuable source of biodiversity adapted to the local production conditions and selection pressures. Manipulation of their acquired adaptive genetic diversity depends on unravelling the selection footprints in the genomes of these chickens that could point towards candidate genes for traits that enable the animals to survive under the harsh production environments. This chapter summarizes the evidence for chickens’ adaptation to extreme environments and describes an inventory of modern tools that could be used in characterizing the production systems of chicken genetic resources. The role of natural selection in shaping the biodiversity of chicken genetic resources is discussed. The continued advancement of biotechnological tools to assess chicken populations has been beneficial to research in genetic adaptation. Genomics tools, as evidenced by assays of whole genome and transcriptome sequences, and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotypes of chickens, now allow analyses of functional genomic regions that are linked to adaptation. The use of these methods to characterize and investigate signatures of selection in the chicken genomes is highlighted. This chapter looks at how information on the selection hotspots in the chicken genomes can be manipulated to improve genetic adaptation in indigenous chicken populations with the desire to transfer the benefits to other chicken breeds raised under similar production systems.
Part of the book: Poultry Science