Biotechnology in the News
The mystery of why some chickens hatch out half-male and half-female.
About one in every 10,000 chickens is gynandromorphous, to use the technical term. These chickens are shedding important new light on how birds, and perhaps reptiles, develop. It was thought that hormones instructed cells to develop male or female characteristics. This is what occurs in mammals, including humans.
Now scientists at the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh say they have discovered that bird cells don’t need to be programmed by hormones. Instead they are inherently male or female, and remain so even if they end up mixed together in the same chicken. this means a half-and-half chicken will have totally different plumage, body shape, and muscle structure on the two halves of its body. This affects the wattles on the bird’s head, and the spurs on its legs. These findings might have immediate practical uses for the poultry industry.
So soon we will be offered dark, white, female or male meat at our next chicken dinner!