A University of Manchester team studying the Svalbard rock ptarmigan hopes to adapt its findings to benefit poultry farmers interested in breeding heavier, stronger birds.

The ptarmigan, an arctic relative of the grouse, can put on up to 32% of its body weight in fat during the winter, yet according to the study the birds become more efficient in their movements during this time, able to easily handle the extreme weight gain. “We are hoping that the knowledge we gain from our studies will eventually help the poultry meat industry to breed birds that can put on weight quickly but have the necessary physiological features so that they don’t suffer as a result,” said Dr. Jonathan Codd, who leads the research team.


The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council funded the study. “It is really important that we increase food production, and that includes meat," said BBSRC Director of Research Janet Allen. "Our aim is to do this sustainably and with the same or improved welfare of the animals that are farmed. Studies such as this that tell us about the basic underlying biology of animals that operate in extreme environments...[can] tell us a great deal about how to breed farmed animals that are fit, healthy and productive.”