Gianni The Gender-Bending Cockerill Starts To Lay Eggs, Baffling Scientists

Gianni started life as a red-blooded rooster and would often wake his Italian owners up crowing on his farm in Tuscany.But when a fox raided Gianni’s enclosure and killed all of the hens inside, Gianni felt it was time for a change.Within days the bird was laying eggs and trying to hatch them as he began his new life as a hen.The sex-change chicken has baffled scientists at the UN’s Farm and Agriculture Organisation, who are now planning to study Gianni’s DNA to see what made him change.

An expert at the centre said: ‘It may be a primitive species survival gene. With all the females gone he could only ensure the future of his line by becoming female.’

Professor Donato Matassino, who will be leading tests on Gianni, said: ‘This rooster-hen will be taken to the laboratories of Consdabi for a series of behavioural and genetic tests.’This will allow us to decipher this bizarre DNA mix up that appears to have literally given what looks like two chickens in one.’Professor Donato said the rooster-hen was transported by train to Naples where the laboratories are based.

(source)

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Giant Cattle To Be Bred Back From Extinction

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Aurochs were immortalised in prehistoric cave paintings and admired for their brute strength and “elephantine” size by Julius Caesar. But despite their having gone the way of the dodo and the woolly mammoth, there are plans to bring the giant animals back to life.The huge cattle with sweeping horns which once roamed the forests of Europe have not been seen for nearly 400 years. Now Italian scientists are hoping to use genetic expertise and selective breeding of modern-day wild cattle to recreate the fearsome beasts which weighed around 2,200lb and stood 6.5 feet at the shoulder.

Breeds of large cattle which most closely resemble Bos primigenius, such as Highland cattle and the white Maremma breed from Italy, are being bred with each other in a technique known as “back-breeding”.At the same time, scientists say they have for the first time created a map of the auroch’s genome, so that they know precisely what type of animal they are trying to replicate.”We were able to analyse auroch DNA from preserved bone material and create a rough map of its genome that should allow us to breed animals nearly identical to aurochs,” said team leader Donato Matassino, head of the Consortium for Experimental Biotechnology in Benevento, in the southern Campania region.
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