There is an extensive variation in plumage color in chicken and each breed of chicken has a characteristic plumage color. Major progress has been made the last 25 years as regards understanding the developmental biology of skin and feathers in birds and also the genetic basis for pigmentation phenotypes in vertebrates. In this chapter the authors review the developmental biology of avian skin and feather explaining how this variation can occur through the expression of different pigments (eumelanin, pheomelanin, carotenoids and psittacofulvins) and how they are distributed across the body and within individual feathers. The chapter also describes how variation at 20 individual loci in the chicken genome affect skin and feather pigmentation, and that the genes, and in most cases the underlying mutation(s), have been identified for 13 of these loci.
Table of contents
2 Developmental biology of avian skin and feather
3 Genetics of plumage and skin pigmentation
5 Where to look for further information