Indirect genetic effects for survival in domestic chickens (Gallus gallus)are magnified in crossbred genotypes and show a parent-of-origin effect

Peeters, K.L.M.; Eppink, T.T.; Ellen, E.D.; Visscher, J.; Bijma, P.


Through social interactions, individuals can affect one another’s phenotype. The heritable effect of an individual on the phenotype of a conspecific is known as an indirect genetic effect (IGE). Although IGEs can have a substantial impact on heritable variation and response to selection, little is known about the genetic architecture of traits affected by IGEs. We studied IGEs for survival in domestic chickens (Gallus gallus), using data on two purebred lines and their reciprocal cross. Birds were kept in groups of four. Feather pecking and cannibalism caused mortality, as beaks were kept intact. Survival time was shorter in crossbreds than in purebreds, indicating outbreeding depression and the presence of nonadditive genetic effects. IGEs contributed the majority of heritable variation in crossbreds (87 and 72%) and around half of heritable variation in purebreds (65 and 44%). There was no evidence of dominance variance, neither direct nor indirect. Absence of dominance variance in combination with considerable outbreeding depression suggests that survival is affected by many loci. Direct–indirect genetic correlations were moderately to highly negative in crossbreds (-0.37 ± 0.17 and -0.83 ± 0.10), but low and not significantly different from zero in purebreds (0.20 ± 0.21 and -0.28 ± 0.18). Consequently, unlike purebreds, crossbreds would fail to respond positively to mass selection. The direct genetic correlation between both crosses was high (0.95 ± 0.23), whereas the indirect genetic correlation was moderate (0.41 ± 0.26). Thus, for IGEs, it mattered which parental line provided the sire and which provided the dam. This indirect parent-of-origin effect appeared to be paternally transmitted and is probably Z chromosome linked.