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VI.  Ring-necked pheasant genes and comments

A number of genetic studies have been done on the ring-necked pheasant. Often the goal of these studies is to determine how closely related the pheasant is to other fowl such as chickens and turkeys. Amazingly, the ring-necked pheasant will hybridize with both chickens and turkeys giving live offspring, and the way that traits are inherited by the offspring tells researchers the relationships between the genes of the pheasant and the genes of the other fowl. As of 1990, nine single genes that affect feather color had been found. Gene symbols had been assigned to only five of these nine genes. The symbols used here are the ones proposed by R.G. Somes, Jr.

The discussion of poultry genetics in these pages is relevant to the pheasant except for when specific genes for other poultry are being considered (for example, the sex-linked traits function the same as they do in chickens). Below is a table of genes and gene symbols specific to the ring-necked pheasant.  The most common wild ring-necked pheasant is the 'wild-type' and all genes that are different from the genes of the wild-type fowl are considered to be mutations. A superscript '+' indicates a gene possessed by the wild-type fowl. I have tried to incorporate relevant and interesting comments about these genes in the comment section. I continue to update this and correct it....


Ring-necked Pheasant Genes of Common Interest
Sex-Linked Genes Symbol
Incomplete albinism a Recessive. Very rare, birds do have eye pigment.
Dilute or blond di Recessive. Adult males retain wild-type color while females retain the blond coloration of the chick down. Female chicks do not have a stripe on their backs while males do. Can be used for sexing day-old chicks.
Gold s+ Recessive. This is the gene that(wild-type) ring-necked pheasant has. It is analogous to the sex-linked gold gene in chickens and is responsible for the red coloration in the plumage.
Barring Ba+ Dominant and is the normal gene possessed by the wild-type ring-necked pheasant. This gene is analogous to the barring gene in chickens.
Dermal melanin id+ Recessive, wild-type gene and analogous to the chicken gene. Causes the production of dermal melanin pigment.

Autosomal Genes
Autosomal Genes Symbol
Pied spotting pi Recessive. Produces a typical pied spotting pattern. Fowl with this gene in the homozygous state are considered to be hard to raise and evidently it is associated with higher post-natal mortality.
Melanistic, mutant, or black M Incompletely dominant. Produces a primarily black chick and adult. Adult plumage can have blue-green sheen. This gene can mask the expression of the white neck ring gene.
Blue-eyed white c Recessive. In addition to being a white pheasant, these birds have pearl-white shanks and feet.
Brown-eyed white bw Recessive. White pheasant with normal colored eyes and buff-colored beaks and shanks.
Cream (Van Buren dilute or faded) cr Recessive. Dilutes feather pigmentation.
Buff B Incompletely dominant. Light colored plumage with ring-necked pattern discernable.
Wheaten wh Recessive. The color is similar to the wheaten coloration of chickens. The color dilution of wh is greater in females than males. Wheaten can eliminate the expression of the white neck ring gene
White neck ring no symbol Recessive. The white neck ring is not characteristic of all subspecies of ring-necked pheasants. Some genes will mask the expression of the white neck ring trait (see wheaten and melanistic).
Wooley wo Recessive. Causes a wooley neck ring. The pheasants with this trait were unable to fly and the skin of homozygotes is orange.
White skin W+ Dominant. Causes the white skin of the wild-type.
Ear tufts no symbol Recessive. Not much is known about this gene.
Velvet face patch no symbol Recessive. Not much is known about this gene.