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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A chicken consultation with ramifications.

In Madison I once worked with two postdoctoral fellows who had spent their youth in New York City and who, when asked what birds they knew both responded "why, pigeons and LBJ's!" (little brown jobbies). Despite their undoubted brilliance, they clearly had an educational deficiency not fixed by buying eggs and poultry at a grocery store. Though of enormous economic and nutritional importance to humans, turkeys and chickens constitute only a minute fraction of the disappearing avian life in our ecology. One could easily teach an entire middle or high school biology course around the reproduction, embryology, evolution, genetics, anatomy, special adaptations, virology, bacteriology, taxonomy, behavior, and extinctions of birds, as paradigmatic of all of life. Where would developmental or evolutionary biology be without the Galapagos finches, chick embryo, or neurobiology without the Zebra Finch? The modifications of the original red jungle fowl of India and South East Asia into hundreds of races through artificial selection and breeding practices provide as beautiful an example of developmental plasticity, well-known to Darwin, as the domestic dog, cat, laboratory mice, and guinea pigs. In what follows I have begun to repay my indebtedness to my mentor Emil Witschi who introduced me to developmental biology, physiology, and genetics and its historical study on the basis of birds (and amphibians); and to Mark Leppert, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Utah for collaborative support, and bird-watching fieldtrips.[1]


  1. A chicken consultation with ramifications. Opitz, J.M. Am. J. Med. Genet. A (2005) [Pubmed]
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