Origin and genetic diversity of Egyptian native chickens based on complete sequence of mitochondrial DNA D-loop region1

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Domestic chickens (Gallus gallus) play a significant role, ranging from food and entertainment to religion and ornamentation. However, the details on their domestication process are still controversial, especially the origin and evolution of African chickens. Egypt is thought to be important place for this event because of its geographic location as well as its long history of civilization. However, the genetic component and structure of Egyptian native chicken (ENC) have not been studied so far. The aim of this study is to clarify the origin and evolution of African chickens through assessing the genetic diversities and structure of five ENC breeds using the mitochondrial D-loop sequences. Our results suggest there is genetic differentiation between the pure native breeds and the improved native breeds. The latter breeds were established by the hybridization of the pure native and the exotic breeds. The pure native breeds were estimated to be established about 800 years ago. Subsequently, we extensively analyzed the D-loop sequences from the ENC as well as the globally collected chickens (2,010 individuals in total). Our phylogenetic tree among the regional populations shows African chickens can be separated to two distinct clades. The first clade consists of North African (Egypt), Central African (Sudan and Cameroon), European, and West (and Central) Asian chickens. The second clade consists of East African (Kenya, Malawi, and Zimbabwe) and Pacific chickens. It suggests the dual origins of African native chickens. The first group was probably originated from South Asia, and then migrated to West Asia, and finally arrived to Africa thorough Egypt. The second group migrated from Pacific to East Africa via Indian Ocean probably by Austronesian people. This dual origin hypothesis as well as estimated divergence times in this study is harmonious with the archaeological and historical evidences. Our migration analysis suggests there is limited gene flow within African continent. These obtained findings are important for the better understanding of the diversity and uniqueness of African native chickens.

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