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(R)evolution in the molecular sexing of ratite birds: identification and analysis of new candidate sex-linked markers

Posted on 13. October, 2015.

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The ratites are flightless birds of the superorder Palaeognathae that includes species such as Ostriches, Emu, Rheas, Cassowaries  and Kiwis. The conservation status of these species indicates that most of them require the implementation of urgent management actions in the scope of pertinent conservation strategies.

The molecular methods for sex identification in birds are important resources commonly used in population studies, management and conservation plans, breeding programs and commercial poultry/farms. Recently, advanced polymerase chain reaction (PCR) methods based on melting curve analysis have been reported for Neognathae (non-ratite) birds. These genotyping strategies are simple, rapid, highly sensitive/specific and cost-effective, allowing high-throughput applicability. The evolutionary divergence and ancestral state of the sex chromosomes in the Palaeognathae (ratite) birds have hindered the utilisation of the sex-linked markers developed for non-ratite species. Therefore, the current PCR-based protocols for ratite species are restricted to agarose and polyacrylamide gels. The screening of new candidate sex-linked markers is mandatory to implement advanced PCR-based approaches in the routine molecular sexing of ratites. In this study, the nucleotide sequences of the Ostrich Z and W gametologous genes were used for the identification of new potential sexlinked markers, considering the optimisation of a molecular sexing protocol using the high-resolution melting (HRM) analysis.

Read the full article in Avian Biology Research Volume 8, Number 3, September 2015, pp. 145-159.

Authors: Francisco Morinhaa,b, João A. Cabralb, Sónia Martinsc, Eduardo Cruzc, Nuno Alvurad, Pedro Nunese, João Direitinhof, Paula Magalhãesg and Estela Bastosa,b

aDepartment of Genetics and Biotechnology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal
bLaboratory of Applied Ecology, Centre for the Research and Technology of Agro-Environment and Biological Sciences, University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal
cBioportugal Lda, Life Sciences Department, Porto, Portugal
dZoo da Maia, Maia, Portuga
eZoo da Lourosa, Lourosa, Portugal
fOstrichland – Produção de Avestruzes, Lda., Charneca da Caparica, Portugal
gCCGen-IBMC, Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Porto, Portugal

Image courtesy of Elsa Hoffmann /