Two new plumage mutations in the Japanese quail: "curly" feather and "rusty" plumage
© Minvielle et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2005
Received: 02 December 2004
Accepted: 11 March 2005
Published: 11 March 2005
The genetics of plumage of Japanese quail is of interest both from a biological standpoint, for comparative studies between avian species, and from a zootechnical standpoint, for identifying commercial selection lines or crosses. There are only few plumage mutations reported in quail, and the present work describes a new color variant "rusty" and a new feather structure "curly", and their heredity from an F1 and F2 segregation experiment.
Curly feathers result from abnormal early growth caused by transient joining of follicle walls of adjacent feathers around 10 days of age, but the expression of the trait is variable. Rusty plumage color results from the replacement of the wild-type plumage pattern on the tip of the feather by a reddish coloration, but the pigmentation of the bottom part of the feather is not affected. Two lines breeding true for the curly or the rusty phenotype were developed. Both characters are determined by autosomal recessive mutations which are independent. The curly mutation has also a positive effect on body weight at 5 weeks of age.
The curly line is a new model which may be used for further work on the growth of the feather, and the rusty mutation is a new addition to the panel of plumage mutations available for comparative studies in poultry, and more generally among avian species.
Japanese quail is both a model animal in biology and a bird used for meat and egg production under a large variety of settings . In the recent past, a special attention was given to the study of its plumage, and several major genes have been described . Since the last compilation of plumage mutations of Japanese quail , new loci were described [e.g. ], linkage and epistasis relationships were explored [4, 5], and some genes were recently mapped . This knowledge has already been put to use for running comparisons between chicken and quail based on plumage genetics [7, 8], and for tagging commercial quail lines with a visible plumage trait, like the "fawn" mutation , or with an auto-sexing mutation like the "roux" gene . Interestingly, some of the mutations described in quail, like the sex-linked "roux" and the lethal "yellow" mutations still have no known homologues in the chicken. Moreover, the fact that some plumage colors, like "lavender", are common to several avian species  is an added incentive to enrich the panel of characterised Japanese quail mutations as potential tools for comparative studies among bird species.
In the present work, a new feather structure phenotype (curly) and a new plumage color (rusty) were described, and their mode of inheritance and linkage were studied in two successive generations (F1 and F2) from an F0 made of eight quail with curly feathering and eight birds with rusty plumage. Growth of the F2 quail was also monitored and compared according to their phenotype for the two plumage mutations.
Results and discussion
Segregation of plumage color and feather structure in the F2 from rusty plumage and curly feather quail lines
Observed (n = 531)
Expected under independent segregation
And complete penetrance (λ = 0)
And incomplete penetrance (0 < λ < 1)
a = 326
9n/16 = 298.7
9n/16+3λn/16 = 315.6¥
b = 95
3n/16 = 99.6
3n/16+λn/16 = 105.2
c = 79
3n/16 = 99.6
3n(1-λ)/16 = 82.7
Rusty and curly
d = 31
n/16 = 33.2
n(1-λ)/16 = 27.6
Goodness of fit
χ2s = 7.5£
χ2s = 1.9$
Analyses of variance of body weight of the F2 from rusty plumage and curly feather quail lines
Mean body weight (g) (SD)
Significance of main effects
"curly" – "wild-type"
"rusty" – "wild-type"
The two new "curly" and "rusty" mutations will enrich the small number of plumage mutations already available in Japanese quail for studying the genetics and the biology of feathers, a field of research with many perspectives . They may have also some interest from a zootechnical standpoint to tag commercial lines, and, if the positive effect of the "curly" mutation was confirmed, this gene might be worth introgressing in parental meat quail lines.
The two mutations originated in the experimental quail population maintained and selected on behavioral traits at the INRA Station de recherches avicoles in Nouzilly, France. After two quail lines were established by fixing separately the curly and the rusty phenotypes, eight reciprocal single pair matings (three "rusty × curly" and five "curly × rusty") were set up with G5 rusty and G4 curly quail from the two pure lines to produce the F1. Then, 531 F2 birds were produced in three consecutive hatches from 17 single pair matings of F1 birds. Sib-mating was avoided, and the hatching rate across all pair matings and hatches was 81%. All chicks were pedigreed, and they were phenotyped for plumage color at hatching and for feather structure at 10 days of age. F2 quail from the first two hatches were raised in two group pens (one per hatch) with free access to ad libitum commercial feed and drinking water, and they were weighed weekly until 5 weeks of age.
Gene nomenclature used in this paper followed recommendations published for chicken genes , with a two-part symbol: "locus abbreviation"*"allele abbreviation/locus", and "locus abbreviation*N" as the symbol for the wild-type allele.
Analysis of the segregation in the F2 to test for linkage was carried out using maximum likelihood methodology and the χ2 test . Penetrance and its standard error were estimated as: 1-λ = (3c/(a+c)) + d(b+d) and SE = (9ac/(a+c)3) + bd/(b+d)3, derived for misclassification of phenotypes due to "partial manifestation" . In the formulae, a, b, c and d are the numbers of observations in the four phenotypic classes described in Table 1.
Five-way analyses of variance of individual body weights (BW) between hatching and 5 weeks of age were carried out by the GLM procedure  for the 348 quail hatched alive in the first two hatches, using the following linear model: BW=(overall mean) + hatch + family + sex + (feather structure phenotype) + (plumage color phenotype) + error. The number of classes for the five main effects were respectively, 2, 17, 2, 2 and 2. Contrasts between least-squared means for each mutant phenotype and for the wild-type quail were estimated from the analyses of variance, using data adjusted for systematic effects of hatch, family and sex.
The authors wish to thank J.M. Faure (INRA SRA, Nouzilly, France) for kindly providing curly and rusty quail he had found in his experimental population.
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