Friday, March 12, 2010

Some Chickens' Sex Split Down The Middle

Well, this is trippy! From Carnal Nation:

Scottish scientists have just published results of a study about an abnormality in some chickens that causes them to exhibit both male and female characteristics. Unlike those Jurassic Park lizards that can switch sex at will to get pregnant, these birds show characteristics of both roosters and hens at the same time.

NPR reported this morning on the study, which was just released in science journal Nature. The unique fowl are called "gynandromorphs," according to Michael Clinton from the University of Edinburgh. The left side of the bird looks like one sex, and the right side looks like the other. They are literally split down the middle, sometimes with two different colored feathers.

Chickens, like humans, have sex chromosomes that tell the bird whether or not to be male or female, and whether they should develop male or female sex organs. When his research began, Clinton assumed that the gynandromorph chickens would be some show of weird chrososomal abnormality that created these hybrid birds. But instead, he found that the chickens had a mix of male and female cells, and the cells themselves were being created without regard for the messages sent out by the chromosomes.

Gyandromorph chickens are rare, but not as rare as one might think. Says Clinton, "If they are the same color, for example, you might think well, that's a funny-looking chicken. But you wouldn't think it's half-male and half-female." Gynandromorph butterflies are also somewhat common, are are gynandromorph lobsters and spiders.

The results of this study question the idea that hormones are the most important determinent when it comes to deciding sex; as yet there's no implication that this research could be applied to humans or other mammals.


Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:49 AM  
Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Interestingly, our president suffers from a similar malady. It seems his political persuasion is also split right down the middle. I believe it's called being a demorepublomorph. I don't think it's caused by some weird chromosomal abnormality, though, but instead from being bought by the elite to advance their agenda and promote their causes. Personally, I call it being a corporatist.

There is one obvious similarity, though, between our president and the hapless chicken: Both are full of chicken shit.

7:55 AM  
Blogger Anna Van Z said...

There ya go! I believe you're right.

12:34 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

Yep, one of my chicken fancier friends forwarded me a link about this gender stuff in chickens.

And as luck would have it one of my australorps is showing rooster-like characteristics. I can finally tell her from the other australorp because she has a taller comb and droopier wattle now. And she holds her tail feathers straight up in the air, since she doesn't have rooster plumes. Actually, it is kind of funny because she reminds me of a night club bouncer the way she herds around the other hens. Her name's Norma. I call her Norm when she's bossy. She's the one who 'mates' with one of the buffs, too. That's actually typical of a flock w/ no rooster, but the physical changes were interesting to note.

11:35 AM  

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