A growth QTL on chicken chromosome 1 affects emotionality and sociality

Behav Genet. 2011 Mar;41(2):303-11. doi: 10.1007/s10519-010-9377-6. Epub 2010 Jul 2.


Domestication of animals, regardless of species, is often accompanied by simultaneous changes in several physiological and behavioral traits (e.g. growth rate and fearfulness). In this study we compared the social behavior and emotional reactivity, as measured in a battery of behavioral tests, of two groups of chickens selected from a common genetic background, an advanced intercross line between the ancestral red junglefowl ("RJF") and the domesticated White Leghorn layer ("WL"). The birds were selected for homozygosity for alternative alleles at one locus (a microsatellite marker), centrally positioned in a previously identified pleiotropic growth QTL on chromosome 1, closely linked to one major candidate gene (AVPR1a) for certain aspects of social behavior. Birds homozygous for the WL allele ("WL genotype") had a modified pattern of social and emotional reactions than birds homozygous for the RJF allele ("RJF genotype"), shown by different scores in a principal components analysis. These results suggest that the growth QTL affects a number of domestication related behavioral traits, and may have been a primary target of selection during domestication. The QTL contains a multitude of genes, several of which have been linked to social behavior (for example the vasotocin receptor AVPR1a targeted in this experiment). Future studies aimed at making a higher resolution genotypic characterization of the QTL should give more information about which of these genes may be considered the strongest candidates for bringing about the behavioral changes associated with animal domestication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Chickens
  • Chromosome Mapping*
  • Crosses, Genetic
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Homozygote
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Receptors, Vasopressin / genetics
  • Social Behavior


  • Receptors, Vasopressin
  • vasotocin receptor