Polydactyly – it runs in the family?

In case you’ve visited this blog in the last week you might have noticed that I’ve been really engaged in a crowdfunding campaign to sequence Lil Bub*, a cat with very special features. Her features include polydcatyly, meaning that Lil Bub has more than the usual 5 fingers on her paws. During my PhD I studied polydactylous mice,and this connection was one of the things that drew me to this project. Interestingly, however, I found out that the interest for polydactyly seems to run in the family – kind of.

When I visited my uncle in New Zealand this Christmas, I stayed at his amazing little cottage and found, much to my amazement, that he keeps Silkie chicken.

SilkiesSilkie in my uncle’s garden. Silkie looking at you. Silkie showing off her (polydactyl) feet.

Silkies are an old breed, originating from China, – and they also have polydactyly! Additionally, they have super-soft plumage, and are generally kept because they are calm and good mothers, so they are great for hatching eggs from other chicken. There’s been some wonderful genetics done on the polydactyly of Silkies by groups in Madison and in Edinburgh. If you’re interested, go check it out here and here.

*And yes, if you haven’t donated yet, I can only encourage you to do so on our experiment.com site. I promise, we’ll be doing some really cool genetics, too.


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