Resilience is the capacity of an animal to be minimally affected by disturbances or to rapidly return to the state pertained before exposure to a disturbance. Less resilient animals are expected to be more susceptible to environmental perturbations, such as diseases, and will consequently show more and/or greater fluctuations in production than more resilient animals. Natural antibodies (NAb) are antibodies recognizing antigens without previous exposure to these, and are hypothesized to be an indication of general disease resistance. The objective of this research was to investigate genetic parameters of resilience indicators based on standardized body weight (BW) deviations and to investigate its relation with immunity (i.e. NAb) and disease resistance. Keyhole limpet hemocyanin-binding NAb were measured in layer chickens, which were selectively bred for high and low keyhole limpet hemocyanin-binding NAb levels during six generations. In addition, BW data of these layers were collected on a four-weekly interval from 4 weeks of age until 32 weeks of age. Standardized deviations of BW from an individual were compared to lines’ average BW (i.e. across individuals), and these were used to calculate resilience indicators: natural logarithm-transformed variance [ln(variance)], skewness, and lag-one autocorrelation of deviations (i.e. all within an individual). Heritabilities of resilience indicators were between 0.09 and 0.11. Genetic correlations between the three resilience indicators were between -0.20 and 0.40 (with high SE), which might suggest that the resilience indicators capture different aspects of resilience. Genetic correlations between resilience indicators and NAb were close to zero, which suggests that the resilience indicators and NAb capture different aspects of immunity. This might indicate that, in this dataset, environmental perturbations are only to a small extent affected by disease incidence, possibly due to a lack of disease occurrence. However, a lower estimated breeding value for ln(variance) was predictive for lower lesion scores after an avian pathogenic Escherichia coli inoculation and vice versa. In conclusion, this study shows that there is genetic variation in resilience indicators based on BW deviations in layer chickens, which opens up possibilities to improve resilience by means of selective breeding.
Berghof, T. V. L., Bovenhuis, H., & Mulder, H. A. (2019). Body weight deviations as indicator for resilience in layer chickens. Frontiers in Genetics, 10, . https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2019.01216