Mitochondrial DNA analyses of domestic pigeon breeds (columba livia domestica) in Turkey

Biray, Bengisu
“Domestic pigeon” refers to any human-developed breed originating from its wild relative, the rock pigeon. Domestic pigeons were used as a food source by humans ~10,000 years ago, while Ancient Egyptians used them as both food and ceremonial animals. Today, there are approximately 350 different breeds and thousands of breeders. Many breeds were selected for their flight abilities or for their extreme morphological characteristics. Through intense artificial selection, pigeon breeds were subjected to a massive directional selection that gave rise to great phenotypic diversity among them. In this study, feathers of different breeds (particularly “owl” breeds) collected from Turkish and foreign breeders were used as DNA source to study their phylogenetic structure. Two mitochondrial regions, COI and D loop, were used to analyze divergence and possible phylogenetic links. The COI marker did not provide enough data to infer reliable construction of pigeon breed phylogeny. The D loop marker did not differentiate between major groups, either, except for the Modern Oriental breed. A star shaped Median-Joining Network suggested little or no geographical structure. Low level of sequence divergence and the high frequency of unique mutations indicated rapid population expansion. Our findings confirm the probable single origin of all domestic breeds and the widespread practice of indiscriminate crossbreeding between various breeds. Overall, mtDNA turned out to be an uninformative marker for a reliable domestic pigeon phylogeny, and was unable to shed light to even well documented events such as the introduction of the Hünkari breed into Europe in the 19th century.