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Journal Articles Genetics Selection Evolution Year : 2022

Managing genetic diversity in breeding programs of small populations: the case of French local chicken breeds

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Abstract

Background On-going climate change will drastically modify agriculture in the future, with a need for more sustainable systems, in particular regarding animal production. In this context, genetic diversity is a key factor for adaptation to new conditions: local breeds likely harbor unique adaptive features and represent a key component of diversity to reach resilience. However, local breeds often suffer from small population sizes, which puts these valuable resources at risk of extinction. In chickens, population management programs were initiated a few decades ago in France, relying on a particular niche market that aims at promoting and protecting local breeds. We conducted a unique comprehensive study of 22 French local breeds, along with four commercial lines, to evaluate their genetic conservation status and the efficiency of the population management programs. Results Using a 57K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chip, we demonstrated that both the between- and within-breed genetic diversity levels are high in the French local chicken populations. Diversity is mainly structured according to the breeds’ selection and history. Nevertheless, we observed a prominent sub-structuring of breeds according to farmers’ practices in terms of exchange, leading to more or less isolated flocks. By analysing demographic parameters and molecular information, we showed that consistent management programs are efficient in conserving genetic diversity, since breeds that integrated such programs earlier had older inbreeding. Conclusions Management programs of French local chicken breeds have maintained their genetic diversity at a good level. We recommend that future programs sample as many individuals as possible, with emphasis on both males and females from the start, and focus on a quick and strong increase of population size while conserving as many families as possible. We also stress the usefulness of molecular tools to monitor small populations for which pedigrees are not always available. Finally, the breed appears to be an appropriate operational unit for the conservation of genetic diversity, even for local breeds, for which varieties, if present, could also be taken into account.
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Dates and versions

hal-03800214 , version 1 (06-10-2022)

Licence

Attribution - CC BY 4.0

Identifiers

Cite

Gwendal Restoux, Xavier X Rognon, Agathe Vieaud, Daniel Guemene, Florence Petitjean, et al.. Managing genetic diversity in breeding programs of small populations: the case of French local chicken breeds. Genetics Selection Evolution, 2022, 54 (1), pp.56. ⟨10.1186/s12711-022-00746-2⟩. ⟨hal-03800214⟩
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