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Ecological niche modelling as a tool to identify candidate indigenous chicken ecotypes of Tigray (Ethiopia)

Gebru, Gebreslassie; Belay, Gurja; Vallejo-Trujillo, Adriana; Dessie, Tadelle; Gheyas, Almas; Hanotte, Olivier


Gebreslassie Gebru

Gurja Belay

Adriana Vallejo-Trujillo

Tadelle Dessie

Almas Gheyas

Director of Frozen Ark Project & Professor of Genetics & Conservation


The Tigray region is an ancient entry route for the domestic chickens into Africa. The oldest African chicken bones were found in this region at Mezber, a pre-Aksumite rural farming settlement. They were dated to around 800–400 BCE. Since then, the farming communities of the region have integrated chicken into their livelihoods. The region is also recognised for its high chicken-to-human population ratio and diverse and complex geography, ranging from 500 to 4,000 m above sea level (m.a.s.l.). More than 15 agro-ecological zones have been described. Following exotic chicken introductions, the proportion of indigenous chicken is now 70% only in the region. It calls for the characterisation of indigenous Tigrayan chicken ecotypes and their habitats. This study reports an Ecological Niche Modelling using MaxEnt to characterise the habitats of 16 indigenous village chicken populations of Tigray. A total of 34 ecological and landscape variables: climatic (22), soil (eight), vegetation, and land cover (four), were included. We applied Principal Component Analysis correlation, and MaxentVariableSelection procedures to select the most contributing and uncorrelated variables. The selected variables were three climatic (bio5 = maximum temperature of the warmest month, bio8 = mean temperature of the wettest quarter, bio13 = precipitation of the wettest month), three vegetation and land cover (grassland, forest land, and cultivated land proportional areas), and one soil (clay content). Following our analysis, we identified four main chicken agro-ecologies defining four candidates indigenous Tigrayan chicken ecotypes. The study provides baseline information for phenotypic and genetic characterisation as well as conservation interventions of indigenous Tigrayan chickens.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 12, 2022
Online Publication Date Sep 30, 2022
Publication Date Sep 30, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 12, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 14, 2022
Journal Frontiers in Genetics
Electronic ISSN 1664-8021
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Article Number 968961
Keywords Genetics, habitat, MaxEnt, climate, agro-ecology, poultry, Tigray
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Ecological niche modelling as a tool to identify candidate indigenous chicken ecotypes of Tigray (Ethiopia) (4.6 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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