The chicken has long been an important model organism for developmental biology, as well as a major source of protein with billions of birds used in meat and egg production each year. Chicken genomics has been transformed in recent years, with the characterisation of large EST collections and most recently with the assembly of the chicken genome sequence. As the first livestock genome to be fully sequenced it leads the way for others to follow – with zebra finch later this year. The genome sequence and the availability of three million genetic polymorphisms are expected to aid the identification of genes that control traits of importance in poultry. As the first bird genome to be sequenced it is a model for the remaining 9,600 species thought to exist today. Many of the features of avian biology and organisation of the chicken genome make it an ideal model organism for phylogenetics and embryology, along with applications in agriculture and medicine. The availability of new tools such as whole-genome gene expression arrays and SNP panels, coupled with information resources on the genes and proteins are likely to enhance this position.
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