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Fowl play: identification and management of hybridisation between wild and domestic Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris) in South Africa

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This study investigates the possibility of hybridisation between introduced domestic Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris, derived from the West African subspecies N. m. galeata, and South African guineafowl, N. m. coronata. There is putative morphological evidence of such hybridisation in wild populations and it is known that domestic guineafowl do not survive well in the wild. Molecular analysis of the control region of mtDNA confirmed the occurrence of the domestic guineafowl haplotype in individuals present in wild populations from KwaZulu-Natal, but not in birds from populations from the Free State. Thus, despite the absence of the availability of bi-parentally inherited nuclear DNA marker, the presence of the domestic haplotype in individuals of both wild and intermediate phenotype (between wild and domestic birds) suggests that there is hybridisation in the wild between domestic and wild guineafowl. To avoid potential negative affects associated with outbreeding depression, we argue for careful control of releases of domestic guineafowl into the wild. This study investigates the possibility of hybridisation between introduced domestic Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris, derived from the West African subspecies N. m. galeata, and South African guineafowl, N. m. coronata. There is putative morphological evidence of such hybridisation in wild populations and it is known that domestic guineafowl do not survive well in the wild. Molecular analysis of the control region of mtDNA confirmed the occurrence of the domestic guineafowl haplotype in individuals present in wild populations from KwaZulu-Natal, but not in birds from populations from the Free State. Thus, despite the absence of the availability of bi-parentally inherited nuclear DNA marker, the presence of the domestic haplotype in individuals of both wild and intermediate phenotype (between wild and domestic birds) suggests that there is hybridisation in the wild between domestic and wild guineafowl. To avoid potential negative affects associated with outbreeding depression, we argue for careful control of releases of domestic guineafowl into the wild.
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Document Type: Commentary

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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