Differentiation of free-ranging chicken using discriminant analysis of phenotypic traits

ABSTRACT In this study, we investigated the differentiation of five different chicken ecotypes - Center, North, South, West, and East - of Saudi Arabia using discriminate analysis. The analysis was based on nine important morphological and phenotypic traits: body color, beak color, earlobe color, eye color, shank color, comb color, comb type, comb size, and feather distribution. There was a strong significant relationship between the phenotype and effect of geographic height in terms of comb type and earlobe color in males as well as body, beak, eye, and shank color. In particular, the comb type and earlobe color differentiated the ecotypes of males. Among the females, the beak, earlobe, eye, shank color, and feather distribution had more differentiating power. Moreover, the discriminant analysis revealed that the five ecotypes were grouped into three clusters; the Center and the North in one cluster, the West and the South ecotypes in the second for males, and the East ecotype in the last cluster. The female dendogram branching was similar to the male dendrogram branching, except that the Center ecotype was grouped with the North instead of the South. The East ecotype was highly discriminated from the other ecotypes. Nevertheless, the potential of recent individual migration between ecotypes was also noted. Accordingly, the results of the utilized traits in this study might be effective in characterization and conservation of the genetic resources of the Saudi chicken.