Hypoxia strongly affects embryonic development during the pre-hatch period. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of oxygen supplementation (O) and a 38.5°C high temperature (HT) at high altitude (HA, 1720 m) on morphological traits during a pre-hatch period and on relative fluctuating asymmetry (relative FA) and allometric growth during an early post-hatch period in broilers. A total of 720 eggs were obtained from a 45-week-old Ross 308 broiler breeder flock raised at sea level (2 m). The eggs were divided into six incubation condition (IC) groups and were incubated at HA. O groups were exposed to 23.5% O2 for 1 h daily from either days 0 to 11 (O0-11), days 12 to 21 (O12-21) or days 18 to 21 (O18-21) of incubation. HT groups were exposed to 38.5°C daily from either days 12 to 21 (HT12-21) or days 18 to 21 (HT18-21) of incubation. A control was maintained at 37.8°C and 21% O2. The hatched chicks were raised for 6 days at HA. Embryo/chick and beak lengths and head diameter were measured during pre- and post-hatch periods. The face, middle toe and shank lengths were measured for each chick. The relative asymmetry (RA), mean RA (MRA) and allometric growth of the lengths were computed and the existence of FA was demonstrated. The IC significantly affected the embryo length, with embryos of the O0-11 group shorter than embryos of the other O groups. Chicks were longer in the O and HT groups than those in the control, except for the O0-11. We found significant interactions between the IC and each development period for beak length. During the post-hatch period, the head diameter of the O0-11 was significantly smaller than that of the other groups, but not in O12-21. The interactions among IC, age and sex were significant for the RA of the face and middle toe lengths and for MRA. All the examined bilateral traits were evaluated as allometric growth. The FA for bilateral traits was determined in both sexes. The right (R) - left (L) and IR-Ll were the lowest in females for face length and in males for shank length from the O18-21 and in males for middle toe length from the O0-11 and HT18-21 groups. Therefore, the effects of factors such as HT and O2 could mitigate the adverse effects of HA-induced hypoxia on optimal developmental stability of bilateral traits of broiler.
Keywords: allometric growth; developmental stability; high altitude; incubation temperature; oxygen supplementation.