FAQ: How do you go about determining the names of new mutants?

FAQ: How do you go about determining the names of new mutants?

To begin with, I would like to correct a major misunderstanding: in 99% of the cases I do not invent these names myself. During the more than thirty years that I have been researching colour mutations, I have only ‘created’ two names myself: euwing and yellam, and only because no other suggestion came from anyone else. Important: and even then, I have absolutely no free choice, because there are (scientific) rules and agreements that a name must comply with and I always follow these agreements.

It mainly starts with a picture and always the same question: what is this? Unfortunately it is not possible to determine a mutation based on a photograph. Others send me feathers but even this is not sufficient to form a well-founded conclusion.

The first question is whether the deviating colour is indeed a separate mutation and not a modification or a combination of existing mutations? The pedigree of the parents, and if possible of the ancestors, is crucial. We can use this to easily look at all possibilities. If there is no reason to assume that we are dealing with a mutation combination we come to the next question: is the phenotype really a mutation and not a modification?

Admittedly, this sound very simplistic but it is an important question: does this deviating type inherit? Everything depends on this answer. If we can determine that the mutation does indeed inherit our first job is to figure out how this inheritance occurs. It usually takes a few generations before we are 100 percent sure. But fortunately purposeful trial pairings will tell us over time which locus is really involved in this mutation. Once the inheritance method has been determined we can start comparing these to existing mutations in other species based on the genotype and the phenotype to try and figure out which mutation we are dealing with.

Once we suspect which mutation we are dealing with we must be sure that everything is correct. The basic requirement for a certain mutation is of course that the inheritance method fits. It is for instance known that a cinnamon mutation inherits sex-linked and is recessive compared to the wild type. There must also be the production of brown eumelanin instead of black eumelanin. In opaline this mutation must inherit SL recessive and there is a redistribution of the pigments present, etc. If this is not SL recessive the names cinnamon or opaline cannot be used, it is as simple as this. Everything must match.

Unfortunately not every mutation is easy to determine and sometimes extra research is needed. One of the items which can help us is feather research. With a basic feather study we can already determine whether we are dealing with a type of dilution, leucism or albinism. In a limited number of mutations we can even already determine the mutation based on this first study. Unfortunately this is a very limited number of mutations and we usually need additional information. As mentioned before the method of inheritance is important. Once this information is available we can focus our thinking in a certain direction and exclude a number of mutations.
In the next step we will compare the cross sections of the feathers to already identified mutations. If there are enough similarities the mystery will soon be solved.

If the cause of the mutation is not known sufficiently we might try, if possible, to study the feather using an electron microscope and as a final option, we can consider whether DNA testing can take place. After all, the gene for some colour mutations is already known, but nowadays these are still exceptions and of course very expensive.

If this gives us the answer and the mutation is already scientifically described or already known in aviculture, then this name will of course be used, on condition that it meets the conditions, because over the years we have already established a few basic rules regarding names:

  • For new mutations English names are used
  • If this type of mutation (based on the pigment formation) has already been scientifically described in other species the existing name is adopted.
  • No proper names or location names can be used in these new names.
  • In Dutch and English the basic type (green, blue, aqua, turquoise) is always placed last: pastel green, hence the pastel mutation in green.
  • Preferably names must be usable in each species in a taxonomic order (for all parakeet species, for all species of exotics, for all species of finches, etc.)
  • For a phenotype caused by the combination of two or more different mutations or SF or SF phenotypes of a dominant gene no separate name is used.
  • Combinations of crossing-overs are indicated by naming the base mutations concatenated using a hyphen (-), such as: cinnamon-ino or opaline-ino. This is easy to remember since crossing-over is hyphenated as well.
  • Combinations caused by autosomal recessively inherited multiple alleles are indicated by concatenating the names of the base mutations, for instance PastelIno. Capital letters are used to mark the names of the mutations. PaselIno is a combination of ‘pastel’ and ‘ino’. If one of these alleles inherits dominantly we propose to use all capitals for this allele and small letters for the recessive allele: DOMINANTALLELERecessiveallele.
  • In combinations of allelomorphs and crossing-overs the names of the least mutated allele (compared to the wild type) is written first.
  • The abbreviations SF and DF are used to indicate single factored and double factored in dominant mutations.
  • Since there are two known types of ino, namely a sex-linked recessive and an autosomal recessive ino mutation, these are indicated as NSL (non-sex-linked) ino for autosomal recessive ino and SL (sex-linked) ino for sex-linked recessive ino.
  • In sex-linked dominant mutations SL SF and SL DF is used.
  • The capital D is used for dark factors: D green (dark factor), DD green (double dark factor). The main advantage of this system is that it can be used to indicate the presence of dark factors in green, blue and any other basic mutation.

If it turns out that the mutation is completely new in aviculture (or the existing name does not meets the conditions), we will initially search the existing scientific literature in the hope that this mutant (pigment abnormality) has once been described in other species. It is clear that this can take a long time. Piles of scientific publications have to be read through, not to mention the associated costs, because most publications are only available after payment.

If the mutant has been sufficiently researched and we are sure that there is no existing name for it, the original breeder can make a proposal. If he or she does not do so, and only in this case, an appropriate and scientifically acceptable name will be determined in international consultation with a few specialists/ breeders.

You see, it is not easy. It would be ideal if we could completely map all the chromosomes/ genes of each species and develop markers to test them. Technically this is already possible and some markers already exist, but the problem is still the expensive price tag. Maybe one day I’ll win the lotto, let’s hope ?

Keep up the good work