The breeding and competition of zebrafinch has grown considerably over the past fifteen years. In order to improve the size of the new mutations, breeders also have recourse to conventional "split" birds.
Some manage to combine several mutations. All this made it essential to know a minimum of applied genetics. It is this minimum that I would like to present to novice breeders.
This is not a complete course in genetics, but a simple presentation of the method I use preceded by some basics.
2. The zebrafinch and its mutations
A zebrafinch has a number of visible characters (size, shape, designs, color, sex) that constitute its phenotype. It can have, in addition to other unexpressed traits (it is said to be a split). The set of traits, expressed or not, is called the genotype.
A young zebrafinch grows out of an egg cell, the result of the fusion of the nucleus of a father's sperm and the nucleus of the female's egg. The bird's genetic program is already there: A series of cell divisions and coded information will (or not) trigger the appearance of the characters. The encoded information is carried by genes located on long filaments contained in the nucleus: chromosomes.
All chromosomes go in pairs: each chromosome therefore has its counterpart.
There are two categories of chromosomes :
- Sex chromosomes :
• XX in the male
• XY in the female
- Autosome chromosomes.
The gray zebrafinch living in Australia is the source of all of our farmed zebra finches. It has a whole set of genes distributed in its chromosomes.Whenever a new mutation has appeared, there has been a change in an original gene (and it has been shown to be hereditary). The original gene and the mutated gene are located in the same place called a locus on each of the homologous chromosomes.
Both genes are alleles.
A bird is pure (homozygous) when all of its alleles carry identical information.
A bird is heterozygous when at least one pair of alleles carries different information about the same trait.
We currently know about twenty different mutations of the gray zebrafinch.