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Chickens and Turkeys Are Closest Dino Relatives Among Birds

Dec 18, 2014 06:18 PM EST

Turkey Day is behind us, but that doesn't mean our appreciation of the bird should end with it. That's especially true after new research revealed that the turkey, along with the chicken, remain the most genetically similar to their dinosaur ancestors, even despite decades of domestication and breeding.

A study recently published in the journal BMC Genomics details how chickens and turkeys have experienced far fewer gross genomic changes than other birds during their dino-to-avian evolution.

This means that they are likely the most similar to their scaly ancestors, compared to songbirds or even birds of prey.

The research was part of a larger consortium of leading research into avian genomes, which tells a clear story of species evolution that can help us better understand the process.

"Bird genomes are distinctive in that they have more tiny microchromosomes than any other vertebrate group. These small packages of gene-rich material are thought to have been present in their dinosaur ancestors," researcher Darren Griffin recently explained in a statement. "We found that the chicken has the most similar overall chromosome pattern to its avian dinosaur ancestor."

To determine this, Griffin and his colleagues recently conducted an analysis of of the whole genome structure of the chicken, turkey, Pekin duck, zebra finch, and budgerigar (common pet parakeet). They then studied data from a total of 21 avian genomes and one reptile species to put together a karyotype - organized profile - of the dinosaur ancestor for each chromosome of six highlighted genomes.

They also found that among all the studied species, the finch and the budgerigar underwent the highest rate of change since their prehistoric origins - a trend that appears common among songbirds and their relatives.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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