Diversity and origin of South African chickens
The objectives of this study were to analyze the genetic diversity and structure of South African conserved and field chicken populations and to investigate the maternal lineages of these chicken populations. Four South African conserved chicken populations (n = 89), namely, Venda (VD_C), Ovambo, Naked Neck, and Potchefstroom Koekoek from the Animal Production Institute of the Agricultural Research Council, and 2 field populations, the Venda and Ovambo (OV_F), from which the Ovambo and the Venda conservation flocks were assumed to have been sampled, were genotyped for 460 bp of the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) D-loop sequence. Haplotypes of these chickens were aligned to 7 Japanese and 9 Chinese and Eurasian chicken mtDNA D-loop sequences taken from GenBank and reflecting populations from presumed centers of domestication. Sequence analysis revealed 48 polymorphic sites that defined 13 haplotypes in the South African chicken populations. All 6 South African conserved and field chicken populations observed were found to be polymorphic, with the number of haplotypes ranging from 3 for VD_C to 8 for OV_F. The lowest haplotype diversity, 0.54 & 0.08, was observed in VD_C chickens, whereas the highest value, 0.88 & 0.05, was observed in OV_F chickens. Genetic diversity between the 4 South African conserved and 2 field chicken populations constituted 12.34% of the total genetic variation, whereas within-population diversity constituted 87.66% of the total variation. The median network analysis of the mtDNA D-loop haplotypes observed in the South African conserved and field populations and the reference set resulted in 5 main clades. All 6 South African chickens were equally represented in the major clade, E, which is presumed to be of Indian subcontinent maternal origin and may have its roots in Southeast Asia. The results showed multiple maternal lineages of South African chickens. Conservation flocks and field chicken populations shared the major haplotypes A, D and E, which were presumed to be of Chinese, Southeast Asian, and Indian subcontinental origin. © 2011 Poultry Science Association Inc.