Integrated environmental and genomic analysis reveals the drivers of local adaptation in African indigenous chickens

Almas Gheyas, Adriana Vallejo Trujillo, Adebabay Kebede, Maria Lozano-Jaramillo, Tadelle Dessie, Olivier Hanotte, Jacqueline Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Breeding for climate resilience is currently an important goal for sustainable livestock production. Local adaptations exhibited by indigenous livestock allow investigating the genetic control of this resilience. Ecological Niche Modelling (ENM) provides a powerful avenue to identify the main environmental drivers of selection. Here, we applied an integrative approach combining ENM with genome-wide selection signature analyses (XPEHH and Fst) and genotype-environment association (Redundancy Analysis), with the aim of identifying the genomic signatures of adaptation in African village chickens. By dissecting 34 agro-climatic variables from the ecosystems of 25 Ethiopian village chicken populations, ENM identified six key drivers of environmental challenges: one temperature variable - strongly correlated with elevation, three precipitation variables as proxies for water availability, and two soil/land cover variables as proxies of food availability for foraging chickens. Genome analyses based on whole-genome sequencing (n = 245), identified a few strongly supported genomic regions under selection for environmental challenges related to altitude, temperature, water scarcity and food availability. These regions harbour several gene clusters including regulatory genes, suggesting a predominantly oligogenic control of environmental adaptation. Few candidate genes detected in relation to heat-stress, indicates likely epigenetic regulation of thermo-tolerance for a domestic species originating from a tropical Asian wild ancestor. These results provide possible explanations for the rapid past adaptation of chickens to diverse African agro-ecologies, while also representing new landmarks for sustainable breeding improvement for climate resilience. We show that pre-identification of key environmental drivers, followed by genomic investigation, provides a powerful new approach for elucidating adaptation in domestic animals.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Early online date22 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 May 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Local environmental adaptation
  • Ecological Niche Modelling
  • selection signature
  • genotype-environment association
  • Redundancy Analysis
  • African indigenous chicken


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