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Birds with no Wings

Updated on December 21, 2017

Many bird species are flightless or have only small or vestigial wings, but he only known bird species that was naturally completely without wings is the extinct New Zealand moa. The only non-extinct species known to have a mutation producing winglessness is the chicken (Gallus domesticus).

Chickens

Winglessness is known to occur in several breeds of chicken and is attributed to a singe autosomal recessive trait first observed in 1943. Wingless chickens were shown as curiosities in the 1940, for example at the National Farm Show In Des Moines

Lacking wings is no a great disadvantage for most domestic chickens as they are largely flightless, however the genes involved can also effect the legs and cause debilitating or fatal deformities. The harmful effects of this trait probably explain why it was no perpetuated and modern example are hard to find.

Other Species

Partially missing wings have been anecdotally reported but the genetic (or other) basis of the defect is unknown. (e.g. pigeon, 2011)

Sources

  • Hinchliffe, J. R., & Ede, D. A. (1973). Cell death and the development of limb form and skeletal pattern in normal and wingless (ws) chick embryos. Development, 30(3), 753-772.
  • LEVI, W. M., & HOLLANDER, W. F. (1939). STRUCTURAL ANOMALIES AND COLOR MOSAICS: Observed in a Colony of Domestic Pigeons. Journal of Heredity, 30(10), 453-457.
  • Thone, F. (1934). Scientists Study a Wingless Rooster. The Science News-Letter, 26(705), 234-235.
  • WATERS, N. F., & BYWATERS, J. H. (1943). A lethal embryonic wing mutation in the domestic fowl. Journal of Heredity, 34(7), 213-217.

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