Washington, July 29 : A new study has rebuffed the theory that seafaring Polynesians and their chickens beat Columbus to the Americas by a century.
In 2007, a chicken bone found in Chile dating to A.D. 1320 to 1410-well before the explorer's arrival-and evidence of a genetic mutation linking that bone to chickens in Polynesia supported the theory.
But now, according to a report in National Geographic News, the fossil has become a bone of contention in a new study, which contradicts the genetic evidence linking Chilean and Polynesian chickens.
A genetic comparison of chicken breeds from around the world reveal that modern-day Chilean chickens, which some scientists have argued carry Polynesian blood, are merely an offshoot of the common poultry found in restaurants and fast-food chains worldwide.
In other words, the Chilean chicken could have come from anywhere.
"The Chilean chicken is a Kentucky Fried Chicken chicken, which is the ubiquitous chicken worldwide," said lead study author Alan Cooper of the Australian Center for Ancient DNA in Adelaide.
The new findings contradict a study published last year, based on research led by Alice Storey of the University of Auckland in New Zealand and colleagues.
Using genetic and radiocarbon dating techniques, Storey's team had concluded that a chicken bone unearthed in Chile predates Columbus' arrival in the Americas by a century or more.
"We don't disprove that theory, but we don't find any evidence for it at all," Cooper told National Geographic News.
Storey's team had reported that their ancient chicken bone carried a genetic mutation that linked it to chickens living on Pacific islands from the same time period.
In their new research, Cooper and his team show that the mutation is not unique to ancient Chilean or Polynesian chickens. Rather, it is present in modern Chilean chickens as well as in thousands of other chicken breeds living worldwide.
"The Chilean modern birds turn out to have standard European chicken DNA," said Cooper. "We found no evidence of them being having an unusual lineage," he added.
Storey conceded that the mutation her team found may not be unique.
"Initially, we had recognized this mutation which we thought was unique to the Pacific," she said. "Their study suggests that's not true," she added.