If you ask at a meeting of zebrafinch lovers questions about the genealogy of the masked, pastel, or black cheeks, we are certain to receive the correct answer.
But if we ask the genealogy question about the format (size), the shape of the head or the length of the beak, the answers will be multiple and different.
Some will say intermediate, others dominant, etc.
Nevertheless these characteristics follow the laws of Mendel. Many breeders do not believe this explanation, but it is true. It seems that laws no longer behave strictly as in other color mutations. A wider variation in format (size), shape of the head, etc ... seems normal.
In nature, we find in zebrafinch the same variation in the format. And, in the process of domestication, this difference in variation has increased. Our cultivated zebrafinch are on average two centimeters wider than their ancestors in the wild.
In articles, one always recommends a hard selection at the level of the format and the model taking into account the differences between the parts like the head, the body, etc.
But the format and the model are directed by the genealogy. The body shapes are driven by factors.
The question is: Is there a relationship between the different factors that governs the format, the model, the shape of the head and the beak ?
In my opinion, these factors are independent of each other. Lesser quantities of zebrafinch are found in the correct size and type of beaks, and there are no good-sized zebrafinch; the right kind of beak alone, etc. This is not an advantage in breeding a good size and hard selection is the only way to improve these characteristics.
A little history
As we know today, Gregor Mendel, best known for his pea experiments, has been at the root of genetics. He has shown by his experiments that if he crossed two peas (F1) with different characteristics such as the color of the flower, the size of the leaves ... Then the resulting (F2) kept the characteristics of only one parent. All the flowers of these young peas had the same color and size of leaves.
It's as if they had "lost" one of the properties. When he crossed these F2 peas between them, the F1 characteristics reappeared among the F3 generation. Mendel called these features shown by the F2 : Dominant. And the hidden features in F2 have been called recessive.
Currently we still call it dominant and recessive. However, we know that Mendel discovered "complete dominance". There are indeed other forms of dominance. We already know these forms so we will especially bring some provisions to remember.
We know that genes carry characteristics and that these genes are located on chromosomes. There are genes dealing with the color of the eyes, the color of the legs, the size of the bill ... The chromosomes are located in the cells of the body: They are stored in the nucleus of each cell. In each nucleus of each cell are the genes for the color of the eyes, the
color of the paws, the size of the beak ... However, the functioning of the genes "eye color" is manifested only in the eyes. In the legs, the genes "eye color" do not appear. Each cell "knows" where it is in the body and what genes it needs to activate.
The chromosomes go by pair, all the genes are found in pairs. For the eye color gene, we have two genes. This also applies to the color of the legs, the size of the bill ... These two genes for the color of the eyes can cause a color of the blue eyes. It is also possible for one gene to take care of the blue color and the other for a brown color. (This does not mean that the being will have one blue eye and the other brown, the brown eye is dominant on the blue, so both eyes will be brown).
The raising and presentation of zebra finch has grown considerably over the past fifteen years. To improve the size of the new mutations, breeders have also resorted to the classic "carrier" birds.
Some manage to combine several mutations. All this made it essential to know a minimum of applied genetics. This is the minimum that I would like to introduce to new breeders.
It is not a complete course of genetics, but the simple presentation of the method I use preceded by some basic concepts.
2. The zebra finch and its mutations
A zebra finch has a number of visible characters (size, shape, pattern, color, sex) that make up its phenotype. It may have, in addition to other characters not expressed (it is said that it is a carrier). The whole of the characters, expressed or not, is called the genotype.
A young zebra finch comes from an egg cell, the result of the fusion of the nucleus of a spermatozoon of the father and the nucleus of the ovum of the female. The genetic program of the bird is already there: A sequence of cell divisions and coded information will trigger (or not) the appearance of the characters. The coded information is carried by genes located on long filaments contained in the nucleus: Chromosomes.
All chromosomes go in pairs: each chromosome has its counterpart.
There are two categories of chromosomes :
- The sex chromosomes:
• XX in the male
• XY in the female
- The chromosomes autosomes.
The gray zebra finch living in Australia is the origin of all our zebra-reared finch. It has a whole set of genes distributed in its chromosomes.
Whenever a new mutation has appeared, it is because there has been a modification of a gene of origin (and that it has proved to be hereditary). The gene of origin and the mutated gene are located at the same location called locus on each of the homologous chromosomes.
Both genes are alleles.
A bird is pure (homozygous) when all its alleles carry identical information.
A bird is heterozygous when at least one pair of alleles carries different information about the same trait.
There are currently about twenty different mutations of gray zebra finch.
We distinguish :
a) The dominant mutations
Pastel, crested, cheeks (gray, brown), black face (black-face), cheeks clear.
A mutation is dominant when it is expressed while the mutated gene exists in only one copy. This gene is located on an autosome chromosome.
There are therefore no zebra finch carrying these mutations.
Note: When the two homologous chromosomes each carry a dominant gene, the young is not viable. This is called a lethal factor.
b) Recessive mutations
White, variegated, saddled, white breast, black breast, orange breast, black cheeks, isabelle, agate, yellow beak, eumo.
A mutation is recessive when it is expressed only if the two autosome chromosomes each have the mutated gene.
If there is only one mutated gene, the character is not expressed. The bird is simply "carrier" of the mutation.
c) Gender mutations
Brown, pale back, masked old type, masked new type.
A mutation is linked to sex when the genes responsible for this mutation are located on the X chromosome (s) of the bird (the Y chromosome of the female being empty of genes).
The mutation is expressed in females since they receive from their father the mutated X chromosome. For it to be expressed in males, the mutated gene must be carried by each of the two X chromosomes. Otherwise, the male is only the carrier of the mutation; however, he can pass it on to half of his daughters.
Notes: The "Light Back" and "Masked" genes are alleles of the same non-mutated gene. A Gray male may carry Pale Back and Masked.
A pale-backed male can be a masked bearer, but not the other way around. In this case, even in a single copy, it is he who expresses himself.
The same factor (Pale Back) can be recessive compared to Gray, but dominant over Masked.
The gene "Brown" also located on an X chromosome does not have the same locus as the previous genes.
Anterior to the other two, it is on a different chromosome.
For these genes to be linked (Pale Brown Back, Brown Masked), it took the appearance of a phenomenon that is the subject of another article: Crossing-over.
d) Combined mutations
Many mutations as well as gray can be combined with each other. One can theoretically associate a lot but in practice, it is better to remain cautious: In addition to the many necessary crossings, it is necessary that the bird obtained remains typed and corresponds to the criteria of the standards.
The most famous are :
• Brown pastel
• Gray or Brown cheeks
• Isabelle Black Chest
Black Brown Black Breast or Brown White Brown Pastel combine, for example, a sex-linked mutation, a dominant free mutation and a free recessive mutation.
It is therefore necessary to know how to choose the best crossings to achieve this.
3. Crossing technique
a) Assign each mutation a symbol
We begin by assigning each mutation a symbol: By analogy with the atomic symbols, we can choose one or two letters of the name of the mutation.
The dominant mutations are in upper case, the others in lower case.
Personally, I use the following symbols (From French abbreviations of mutations) :
Fn: Black face
bj: Yellow beak
po: Orange Breast
pb: white chest
pn: black breast
J: Cheeks (Gray or Brown)
jn: Black cheeks
dp: Pale Back
ma: Masked Old type
mn: Hidden new type
Scientists have a + sign followed by the symbol of the unmutated gene.
Example: H (Huppe); H + (not Crested); pb (White breast); pb + (no white breast).
Personally, I find it more logical to write: H + (Huppé); H- (not Crested); pb + (White breast); pb- (no white breast).
In the end, the results will be the same.
b) Write the genetic formula of each bird
On either side of a fraction bar, symbols of the genes carried by each homologous chromosome are transferred, starting with the sex chromosomes.
c) Sex chromosomes
Gray male: XN / XN; Gray female XN / Y
In this case, N means Normal
d) Gender mutation
Brown male: Xbr + / Xbr +; Brown female: Xbr + / Y
Same formulas with dp +, my +, mn +.
e) dominant free mutation
Male pastel gray: XN / XN PL + / pl-; Gray pastel female: XN / Y pl- / PL +
Same formulas with H +, BF +, J +.
Non-mutated recessive factors are written in lower case.
f) Free recessive mutation
Black-chest male XN / XN pn + / pn +; Black breasted gray female XN / Y pn + / pn +
Same formulas with pb +, po +, jn +, pa +, se +, is +, and so on.
g) Combined mutations
Brown male black face black cheeks: XN br + / XN br + Fn + / fn- jn + / jn +
Male pastel pale yellow pastel: XN dp + / XN dp + Pl + / pl- bj + / bj +
Gray male / (/ means carrier) Pale back: XN dp + / XN dp-
Female Brown / Black cheeks: XN br + / Y jn + / jn-
Gray female black face / black breast: XN / Y Fn + / fn- pn + / pn-
Gray male black face / black breast: XN / Y Fn + / fn- pn + / pn-
Male pale back gray / Masked NT (new type): Xdp + / Xmn +. In this case, one could write DP +, since the Pale Back dominates its allele, the NT Mask.
4. Place these formulas in a cross table
We must first remember:
• That each parent transmits to his or her young only one of the two chromosomes of each pair.
• That the grouping in each gamete (spermatozoon or ovum) of these chromosomes is by chance: it is the genetic mixing.
The more the parent has mutated genes on different chromosomes, the more combinations will be possible. This is the only difficulty in this method, but it is inevitable.
Let's start with a simple crossover :
a) Brown male: (XN br + / XN br +) X Female gray XN br- / Y
XN br+ XN br+ XN br- XN br+/XN br- XN br+/XN br- Y XN br+/Y XN br+/Y
Each chromosome of the male (in this case, the sex chromosomes) finds its homologous chromosome provided by the female. It only remains to translate each formula.
Results : XN br + / XN br- Male gray / brown (50%); XN br + / Y Brown female (50%)
b) Male gray / brown: (XN br + / XN br-) X Brown female: XNbr + / Y
XN br+ XN br- XN br+ XN br+/XN br+ XN br-/XN br+ Y XN br+/Y XN br+/Y
Results : XN br + / XN br + Brown male (25%); XN br- / XN br + (25%); XN br + / Y Brown female (25%); XN br- / Y Gray female (25%).
Once the method is acquired, it is possible to find the result of any cross. It takes time, logic and patience (or a computer).