Pet bird farming has progressed to a lucrative and paying business worldwide. Psittaciformes such as parrots, parakeets, lovebirds, conures, cockatoos and macaws fetch high prices especially if their feather plumage has a scarce and unique colour combination. A number of pet bird species are sexually monomorphic and it is difficult to distinguish between male and female based on an external morphological analysis alone. Many different methods have been used to identify bird sex and conventional techniques present significant problems especially the most used invasive procedures. Birds may suffer stress having been subjected to these time-consuming and potentially harmful procedures. These procedures have a detrimental effect on the breeding potential of the birds.
Making use of specific DNA sex markers is possible to confirm the sex of a bird using DNA isolated from a feather shaft or blood spot.
Performance traits in racing pigeons:
Pigeons have been domesticized since the nineteenth century. Originally, they were used to deliver post however since then the potential of the species flying capabilities caused these birds to be used for racing. Pigeon racing is often described as a sport where there is a singular starting point and a thousand finish lines due to the design of the races. Races can range from 100 to 1800 km in length. Several genes have been linked to racing pigeon performance, of which the LDHA and the dopamine receptor D4 (DRD4) are the most commonly tested. Changes in two genes have unequivocally been linked to performance over short, middle and long-distance flights.
The LDHA gene correlates with muscle endurance and therefore different genotypes for this gene allow for racing pigeons to perform better at long distance racing. The DRD4 gene has been linked to racing performance in short distance races. At Unistel Medical Laboratories we conduct the necessary tests to analyses the LDHA and DRD4 genes. Through the use of polymerase chain reactions and restriction digestions we can confidently determine if the genetic makeup of a pigeon is favourable or not.
Knowledge of the variant combination of the genes allows breeders to selectively breed chicks with a high probability of performance over various distances. Both parentage tests as well as trait testing adds great value to the avery and provides customers with a scientific certification of quality.
All tests are available from Unistel.
Tests can be performed on DNA extracted from fresh feather shafts and / or blood spots obtained from claw pricks.
Additional tests are available on many species of birds. Information available on request.
Animal Genetics price list documents can here found here.
Racing Pigeon Performance Testing
Racing ability in pigeons has been linked to several distinct genetic variants within the racing breed. As this information can help to predict an individual’s likely performance in both long (1000 km) and short (100 km) distance races, choosing pairings accordingly can therefore assist in breeding more competitive birds. Two genes, the lactate dehydrogenase A gene (LDHA) and the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4), are the most commonly tested for, as their respective functions have a large impact on an individual’s racing performance. The LDHA gene plays an important role in determining muscle endurance, recovery and aerobic capacity. Dopamine receptors play an important role in motivation and reward. At present, Unistel Animal Services (UAS) offers testing for both LDHA and DRD4. Both feathers and blood on Guthrie cards can be used to extract DNA from.