Aug. 20, 2013 — Researchers at The University of Nottingham have unscrambled the genetic mutation that gives the distinctive blue eggs laid by some breeds of chickens.
They are the latest foodie fashion and look set to become big business in the baking aisles of all the major supermarkets -- the blue egg produced by some chickens is prettier and some say tastier and cleaner-breaking than the traditional brown one -- and now, thanks to scientists from The University of Nottingham, we know what caused the eggs in some breeds to turn this unusual colour.
In a four-year research project just published in the journal, PLOS ONE, the team from the School of Biology, has identified the genetic mutation which first produced the blue egg in native South American chicken, the Mapuche fowl, and their European descendants, Araucana between 200 and 500 years ago. The results could inform future research into agricultural breeding techniques if demand for the blue egg continues to grow.
The scientists used the unique genetic resources conserved by heritage or 'fancy' poultry breeders to identify at fine resolution the exact location of the mutation in the genome in blue egg laying chicken. This work was followed by further genomic study which revealed the genetic cause of the blue coloured egg shell -- surprisingly -- an ancient harmless retrovirus in the domestic chicken.