Wild Type: Our Starting Point

By John Fowler


The domestic Ringneck Dove (Streptopelia risoria) is kept by bird fanciers around the world.  This is the long-domesticated form of the African Collared Dove (Streptopelia roseogrisea) which has its origin in Northern Africa.  The African Collared Dove is similar in size and proportion to the well-known Ringneck Dove (S. risoria).  The color of the African Collared Dove is exactly the same as the wild or dark Ringneck dove. 

Prior to the 1950's the Ringneck Dove in the United States was known only in the fawn (blond) and white colors.  The wild or dark colored was unknown in the United States until the African Collared Dove was imported by J. W. Steinbeck in the early 1950's.  It was after the back-crossing to the imported African Collared Dove (S. roseogrisea) that the wild color became available and the many new color mutations began to appear.

These original imports were sent to the University of Wisconsin for sexing.  Dr. Wilmer J. Miller sexed them (they were all females) and obtained hybrids with Ringneck Doves (S. risoria) before returning them.1  Evidently all dark Ringnecks in the U.S. come from that source.  After the introduction of the African Collared Dove's wild coloration into the domestic ringneck many new color mutations began to appear.  Dr. Miller and Dr. Willard Hollander studied and symbolized the eight color mutations (dark or wild-type is not a mutation) existing in the United States and Canada. 

In order to identify these various mutants, a base line must be identified and described.  In the case of the domestic ringneck dove, wild type or dark color was chosen as that base line.  This bird has a dark brown-gray back, wing shields and rump with pale blue-gray along the wing edge.  The primary flight feathers are nearly black with fine light-colored edging.  The neck ring is a black, white-edged half collar.  The male's head, neck and breast have an amethyst or mauve-pink coloring.  Hens may show less coloration in these areas.  The black under tail bar is only on the inner web of the outer tail feathers.  The eye color is a deep chestnut red and legs and feet are a reddish-purple.  For our purposes in ringneck dove genetics, the normal wild-type is the standard against which everything is judged.

Every mutation or change from wild type must be compared to it and described.  As the standard, wild type is not considered dominant or recessive. Mutant alleles are dominant or recessive in comparison to wild type. When I say that any change (a mutation) from wild type is compared to it and described; I do not mean that someone is just describing a color or pattern.  By describing, I mean that someone performed breeding tests to determine how the change is inherited.  For example, in 1960 Reed Kinzer of Lancaster, Pennsylvania brought to the attention of Dr. Hollander a color that he had acquired from George Kleinpell of Cleveland.2  He described this color as dilutes or rosy and sent 6 young to Drs. Hollander and Miller in 1962.  The first crosses were to the wild-type dark and all offspring were wild-type dark.  This F1 generation was paired back to the rosy parents and rosy was re-extracted on the dark background.  The first such dove was a male dark rosy, D+//dB  ry//ry which hatched on February 14, 1962.  Further testing, indicated that rosy was inherited as an autosomal recessive.  The name rosy was given because a mutant should be named after the single mutant form on a dark background.  Peach was the name given to the original doves from Mr. Kinzer since they were a double mutant, blond rosy. 

The important thing to remember is that normal wild type is the standard against which we test all mutations.  Only when there is a mutation from the normal wild type can we test.  Thanks to the work of Dr. Wilmer J. Miller and Dr. Willard F. Hollander we now know how the eight color mutations in the ringneck dove are inherited.  Now we can move an identified gene which produces a desired phenotypic expression to future generations of breeding stock all by acquiring a single bird.  Knowledge of each gene's affect on wild type and how to unite them in one individual offers breeders more than just a random shot.  We no longer have to rely on trial and error breeding methods. 

Let's summarize:  Wild type is the original type and is the base line against which we compare any mutation.  The genotype for wild type at any locus is (+).  The complete genotype for wild type as known today is D+//_ Al+//_ Iv+//_ Pi+//_ Ry+//_ Fr+//Fr+ Ta+//Ta+ M+//M+.   If a mutation requires only one copy of itself to be visual, we call it a dominant or co-dominant mutation.  If it requires two copies to be visual we call it a recessive mutation.  Knowing this is important to being able to distinguish between genotype (the genetic make-up) and the phenotype (visible characteristics).  An uninformed breeder may discard breeding stock, which are actually possessors of the genes needed to produce the desired characteristics.  The genotype determines the color of the bird.  The geneticist can give you the right color of a bird, but it takes a breeder and dedicated fancier to give you the right shade of color to win.  This is where the art of breeding takes over from the geneticist -- and it is an art.  But remember, wild type is always our starting point.


1, Wilmer J. Miller, "Genetics Of The Ringneck Dove, Streptopelia risoria.  VI. Dark-Blond-White: Sex-linked alternatives in Ringneck Doves, American Dove Association Newsletter (ADAN), http://www.ringneckdove.com/


2, Wilmer J. Miller, "Genetics Of The Ringneck Dove, Streptopelia risoria.  V. Description of Mutants, Rosy, an autosomal recessive; American Dove Association Newsletter (ADAN), http://www.ringneckdove.com/


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