Sydney, August 7 : A new research at the University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia is using genetics to explore the chicken genome to help understand the spread of chickens and people around the globe.
According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the team from UQ has even challenged claims for the presence of chickens in South America before Christopher Columbus' arrival in the 15th century.
Archaeologist Dr Sean Ulm, from UQ's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, said that it was known European chickens were introduced into the American continents by the Spanish after their arrival in the 15th century, but there was ongoing debate about the presence of pre-Columbian chickens in South America.
"This is a crucial issue for archaeology, because if chickens were in South America before the Spanish arrived it means people must have brought them there across the breadth of the Pacific Ocean," said Dr Ulm.
He said there was some contact between pre-European Polynesians and Americans because the South American sweet potato occurs in Polynesia and the bottle gourd from Asia, and ultimately Africa, occurs in South America.
"However, to date there has been no conclusive archaeological evidence for the presence of Polynesians in South America, making recent claims for presence of pre-Columbian chickens in South America a key issue," he said.
The team generated partial mitochondrial DNA sequences from native Chilean chickens and compared them with a database of domestic chicken sequences from across the globe.
The modern Chilean genetic sequences were found to cluster closely with European, Indian subcontinental and South East Asian chickens, indicating a European genetic origin.
"The study found no support for previous claims for a Polynesian introduction of chickens to South America," said Ulm.
"This does not mean that Polynesians and people in the Americas did not have contact in the past, just that the current archaeological evidence does not suggest that chickens were part of the package," he added.