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Half-Male, Half-Female Fowl Explain Birds' Sex Determination

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the fish-nor-fowl-except-fowl dept.

Science 117

Kanan excerpts from a BBC report out of Scotland: "A study of sexually scrambled chickens suggests that sex in birds is determined in a radically different way from that in mammals. Researchers studied three chickens that appeared to be literally half-male and half-female, and found that nearly every cell in their bodies — from wattle to toe — has an inherent sex identity. This cell-by-cell sex orientation contrasts sharply with the situation in mammals, in which organism-wide sex identity is established through hormones." Kanan also supplies this link to some pictures of the mixed-cell birds.

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The Colonel Says (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31443982)

Its a new fad for KFC. Hermaphrodite Chickens Taste Better

Re:The Colonel Says (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31444004)

I for one welcome our avian hermaphrodite overloads... or is it overladies?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Chickens (1)

billstewart (78916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447062)

In Soviet Russia, the Overlords joke welcomes you....

I call fowl (-1, Offtopic)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#31443994)

Go F your self bird!!

Re:I call fowl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31444016)

Prize for the least funny pun.

Re:I call fowl (1)

skids (119237) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444266)

I suppose I deserved to be subjected to bad puns just for opening this thread.

"Intersex Chickens" is just one of those topics one should avoid on Slashdot. What was I thinking? /me escapes before "chicks with..." jokes start.

Re:I call fowl (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446472)

Why did the intersex chicken cross the interstate?

Re:I call fowl (1)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447594)

Like the chickens, his joke went off half-cocked.

Interesting (3, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444010)

So would one of these hermaphrodite chickens be called a half-cock?

I agree with the section "Clucking confusing."

Re:Interesting (4, Funny)

RCGodward (1235102) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444056)

I think this story is for the birds... I'm sorry...

Re:Interesting (1, Troll)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444480)

I agree. What a ridiculous premise regarding sexual identity. So an XX or XY chromosome pairing in every cell of a mammal is nothing to do with gender? WTF? Since when is a study of 3 individuals considered decent research anyway? Also, when a flock of chickens suddenly loses it's rooster, the dominant female will sometimes act as a rooster. That isn't hormonal? It's crazy what people try and pass off as science these days...

Re:Interesting (2, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445276)

Also, when a flock of chickens suddenly loses it's rooster, the dominant female will sometimes act as a rooster. That isn't hormonal?

This does happen.

Apparently this is not all that common, that is, not every hen can become a henry, and perhaps TFA suggests the means by which this does happen when it does.

Apparently One in 10,000 hens can change sex [answers.com] , usually in response to a gonad ceasing to function. One professor explained it this way: [angelfire.com]

  "Yes a type of sex reversal does occur in poultry. Both a right and left ovary start to develop in the embryo but between day 7 and 9 of incubation the right gonad ceases to continue development. If in the adult, the left ovary is removed or fails to function the right gonad hypertrophies to become a testis-organ and thus "a male' instead of what was a hen."

The implication of this is with regard to TFA is that failure of one gonad cease development leads to the double expression of traits documented in the story.

So there is nothing new here that hasn't been known for some time with regard to chicken sex other than that the normal failure to enter stasis can lead to odd birds.

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446522)

What's new is that the DNA of the chicken is different on the left and right sides. It's not just developing new sexual characteristics due to hormones. If you take one of these hens that later became a rooster and checked the DNA, it would show up as female on both sides.

Re:Interesting (0)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445430)

So an XX or XY chromosome pairing in every cell of a mammal is nothing to do with gender?

Sex (noun) and gender are two distinct things. Sex is genetic, while gender is hormonal. Transgenered people are of one particular sex, and a different gender. Some animals can change, hormonally, based on non-genetic factors. They change their gender based on the presence or absence of certain members of a gender of their species being present in their population. Take out the males, and females become males. It's similar to the way that women living in the same home will eventually be on the same menstrual cycle. Non-genetic factors influence hormones, and gender is hormonal.

Have you ever noticed that in same-sex pairings, it is common for one member to act very masculine, and the other act very feminine, regardless of what the pair's actual sex is? It's my understanding that there is no hormonal difference, but one just adopts the behaviors of the other gender. This seems consistent with the idea of a chicken flock losing its rooster and a female acting as one without any hormonal changes. Now this is purely anecdotal, but I believe it to be accurate.

Re:Interesting (2, Insightful)

dov_0 (1438253) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445712)

Sex (noun) and gender are two distinct things.

Well, no. Sex and gender identification are two different things.

Have you ever noticed that in same-sex pairings, it is common for one member to act very masculine, and the other act very feminine, regardless of what the pair's actual sex is?

Sometimes, yes, sometimes no. What you are speaking about is quite irrelevant to the discussion and has less to do with gender identification than emotional roles in relationships, which is an entirely different thing.

Re:Interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31448280)

No, the story is clearly implying that chicken cells are gendered. So there are literally female cells in a chicken. It's not hormonal in that particular species.

Why did the chicken cross the gender boundary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31444508)

To get to the other gestalt.

Re:Why did the chicken cross the gender boundary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31448200)

To explore the constraints to the Poisson equation.

ROFL. man that was hilarious. i love my jokes. they are so nerdy and dorky. lol

Re:Why did the chicken cross the gender boundary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31448708)

Why did the chicken cross the gender boundary? To explore the constraints to the Poisson equation.

You mean there's an equation to describe French fish? And why was the transgendered chicken interested in fishy math? Was it because it liked to wear fish-net stockings? And is a fish-net also a series of tubes? Or is it transistorized? Are there torrents on the fish-net? I'm asking because a fish could get caught in a torrent

AAAAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!! MAKE IT STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Re:Interesting (3, Funny)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444564)

If two sexually scrambled chickens get together, will one lay scrambled eggs?

Re:Interesting (3, Funny)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444690)

Since this seems to be the "joke" thread, allow me to put in my $0.02

I was on a farm doing research on genetic engineering and kept seeing something zip around at amazing speeds. I asked the farmer what it was and he told me it was chickens.

"See," he said, "the drumstick is everyone's favorite part of the chicken. So we engineered chickens with three legs. For every two chickens we sell, it's like we are selling three, leg-wise. It actually reduces waste since the factories don't find themselves with extra breasts and other crappy parts that they have to throw away or turn into chicken nuggets."

I said, "WOW!!!! That's amazing. How do they taste?"

He replied, "Hell if I know. We haven't been able to catch one yet!"

________________________________________________________

Please, tip your waitress.

Re:Interesting (1)

pwnies (1034518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444128)

That's actually what the story's headline was. I'll still give you credit for wit though seeing as no one on /. rtfa.

Re:Interesting (1)

BraksDad (963908) | more than 4 years ago | (#31448344)

And flees (do birds have flees or some equivalent?) jumping off would be going off half-cock.

About one in every 10,000 chickens is gynandromorp (4, Interesting)

kimvette (919543) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444028)

About one in every 10,000 chickens is gynandromorphous, to use the technical term.

That's somewhat close to the rate of intersex conditions in mammals, including humans.

Re:About one in every 10,000 chickens is gynandrom (0)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446208)

I wonder if this is true for dinosaurs as well and if certain events affecting reproduction contributed to their extinction.

Dinosaur extinction (3, Funny)

billstewart (78916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447048)

Are you suggesting that the Gay Agenda was what wiped out the dinosaurs?

I suspect the real events that affected their reproduction involved Mass Quantities of Death, and the difficulty in getting Zombie Dinosaurs to reproduce.

Re:Dinosaur extinction (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31448690)

and the difficulty in getting Zombie Dinosaurs to reproduce.

They're still reproducing - we just call them politicians.

Re:About one in every 10,000 chickens is gynandrom (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31449082)

> That's somewhat close to the rate of intersex conditions in mammals, including humans.

Yeah, there are chimeras:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimera_(genetics) [wikipedia.org]

gynandromorphs? (1, Redundant)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444054)

Shouldn't that be hermaphorochicken?

Object-sex-oriented? (5, Funny)

InsertWittyNameHere (1438813) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444234)

So each cell has it's own this.getSexualOrientation() function.

Whereas mammals have a global static variable where SEXUAL_ORIENTATION = MALE or FEMALE.

This is interesting because I thought we all inherited from a common ancestor. Was sexual orientation not defined in the root class?

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31444298)

Sex != sexual orientation.

or to put it another way, sex is what you have between you legs, sexual orientation is what you want between you legs.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31444458)

Sex is what you have between your legs.
Gender identity is what you want between you legs.
Sexual orientation is what you want between someone elses legs.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445568)

Don't be silly.

Sex is what you want but can never get enough of.

Gender identity is what lets you pick out cross-dressers and transvestites.

Sexual orientation is how you're oriented during sex, i.e. missionary, doggy style, reverse cowgirl, Saskatchewan Swinging Simian power retrograde style, etc.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (2, Insightful)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446306)

Sexual intercourse is what you have been genetically programmed to do with what you have between your legs.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447268)

Interestingly, sex and X/Y chromosome presence aren't neccessarily connected, either. There are some conditions (IIRC always genetic defects) that might cause you to have the wrong hormonal makeup and thus express the sex your chromosomes don't indicate. IIRC in that case the sexual organs are always nonfunctional but I might be wrong.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

muridae (966931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31448582)

Not always directly genetic, as in the presence of an extra X/Y or some other mosaic condition. It can also be caused by the hormones that the embryo is exposed to, possibly this is genetic in the mother but I haven't seen any study about it. Or by obvious or occult physical defect; exstrophies being an obvious one.

Or, to paraphrase the GP:
Physiotype is what you've got.
Karyotype is what your genes have.
Gender is what your brain has.
Sex is what you want to be having.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444314)

All definitions in the root class can be overloaded, I guess.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

northernfrights (1653323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444646)

Ohhhhhhhh, ok. Now I get it. Geez when I RTFA it was like reading a whole new language.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (2, Insightful)

danlip (737336) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444700)

No, the common ancestor of all animals almost certainly reproduced asexually (as do many primitive animals today), so it would not be defined by the root class. There are of course more recent common ancestors between birds and mammals, but XY seems unique to mammals.
See ZW sex-determination system [wikipedia.org] and X0 sex-determination system [slashdot.org] .

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

dwye (1127395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447210)

First, your link to the explanation of the X0 system is broken.

Second, I don't know for certain, but I think that the sex determination function is handled like Common Lisp inheritance (inherited from an instance, not an abstraction like a class definition, especially of a root class) rather than C++, Java, C#, etc. Evidently, said function was replaced in the mammalian line, just as color vision was (birds and reptiles have four primary colors, most mammals have only two, and pro-simians and primates have three (in general in all cases - at one company where I worked had about 1/4 male color-blindness).

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (2, Interesting)

danlip (737336) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447386)

that was meant to be a wikipedia link, something weird happened when I did a preview, edited again, and submitted (I had missed a closing quote before the first preview, but I think that caused slashdot to munge the URL, but I was going quickly). In any case you can search on that in wikipedia.

My point is there are lots of ways to do sex determination. Echidnas and Platypuses are particular weird in this way (and in every other way), even though they are mammal they don't use XY.

And of course, in the most literal real world sense, it is all inherited from instances.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (5, Funny)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444740)

In both cases, each cell has its own this.getGender() function.

In both cases, I would imagine the code looks something like this:


class cell {
      int gender; // should really be a bool, need to fix that at some point.
      proteinFactoryBuilder asdf; // find a better naming scheme ... ...

      getGender() { /* I don't really have time to go back and fix this right now, but if I'd known I'd be making multicellular organisms with this shit I wouldn't have put this at the cellular level. Anyway, we're stuck with it, so for now I'm just returning the gender variable and I'll leave it to callers to figure out wtf to do with unexpected output. */
          return gender;
      }
}

Small wonder it's a little more confusing for birds.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447020)

I'd imagine there is no written code involved in today's organisms. However, the very first cell had this:

        int survival_chance_of_mutation = rand(); // who cares, it'll crash anyway

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31447120)

evidently god uses C++
(fucking figures as soon as I get out of a data structures exam ends, I have to see this shit)

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (2, Informative)

dwye (1127395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447276)

Your example code is cute, except that the inheritance system is more like Common LISP (inheritance from an instance) rather than C++ (inheritance from a Platonic Ideal of the class). Please rewrite appropriately.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

chooks (71012) | more than 4 years ago | (#31448384)

int gender; // should really be a bool, need to fix that at some point.

That's not a bug -- it's a feature. Some life forms (e.g. slime molds) have more than two [si.edu] "genders".

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (5, Informative)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444766)

Mammals actually handle sex inheritance in an inverted arrangement from birds. Whereas mammals use the X/Y system, where males are the heterogametic type (XY) and females are the homogametic type (XX), birds (and some other animals) use a "ZW system" where males are ZZ and females are ZW. A notable feature of ZW determination is that the Z chromosome is more like a full-fledged chromosome with many genes, unlike the mammalian Y chromosome which has been paring down its genes so that it contains the sex-determining gene SRY, some genes necessary for sperm production, and little else.

This might go a long way towards explaining gynandromorphism in birds. In mammals, maleness is handled in a top-down fashion- the Y chromosome does not explicitly specify most aspects of the male phenotype, instead simply encouraging the cells that go on to make androgens, which then go on to produce a cascade of developmental effects throughout the body. In birds, the Z and W chromosomes both may have enough genes that sex determination can be handled from the bottom up, locally in each cell.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (2, Insightful)

MikeV (7307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445756)

...unlike the mammalian Y chromosome which has been paring down its genes so that it contains the sex-determining gene SRY, some genes necessary for sperm production, and little else. ...This might go a long way towards explaining gynandromorphism in birds. In mammals, maleness is handled in a top-down fashion- the Y chromosome does not explicitly specify most aspects of the male phenotype, instead simply encouraging the cells that go on to make androgens, which then go on to produce a cascade of developmental effects throughout the body.

Even so, with the XY chromosome - cutting off body parts and taking hormones does not make a man a "woman" any more than flapping one's arms makes one a bird. Mammals sex inheritance isn't as neutered as the interpretation of the article suggests - only that fowls goes a bit deeper into it than mammals.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (3, Funny)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444778)

First-year computer science students rejoice! God doesn't know how to do OOD either!

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

fusiongyro (55524) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444822)

From what I gathered, in mammals it's more like all the cells are Observers and what they're observing are hormonal signals that indicate sex.

And as someone else observed, this is about sex, not gender identity or sexual orientation. This will get messy in a hurry.

Er... (1)

Nomaxxx (1136289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444836)

...Nevermind. We're on Slashdot after all... *sight*

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (1)

dimeglio (456244) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446264)

Apparently. Sex has to be specified in each single object through a getter/setter method.

But the root class has only one private method. All we know is if we inherit the class we're alive.

Re:Object-sex-oriented? (2, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446284)

So each cell has it's own this.getSexualOrientation() function.

That’s Java right? Then, wouldn’t that be this.getFactoryFactory().getOrientationDeterminationFactory(this.getFactoryFactory().OrientationDeterminator.SEXUAL).getSexualOrientationDeterminator().execute()?

n00bs (5, Funny)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444326)

They're not the first ones to be checking out a nice-lookin' bird and then see from another angle that "she" is really a man.

Re:n00bs (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444976)

I have a feeling there is a really embarrassing story to go with the above statement.

Re:n00bs (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446348)

But don’t you know about the bird?
Because everybody knows about the bird.
Ba-ba-ba baa-baa-ba baba-baba ba, baba-baba-ba baba-baba-ba,
ba-ba-ba baa-baa-ba baba-baba ba, baba-baba-ba baba-baba-ba,
don’t. you. know. about. the. biiird?
Everybody knows about the biird...
Ba-ba-ba baa-baa-ba baba-baba ba, baba-baba-ba baba-baba-ba,
ba-ba-ba baa-baa-ba baba-baba ba, baba-baba-ba baba-baba-ba,
Ba-ba-ba baa-baa-ba baba-baba ba, baba-baba-ba baba-baba-ba,
ba-ba-ba baa-baa-ba baba-baba ba, baba-baba-ba baba-baba-ba. ;)

Lends more to the old paradox chicken or the egg (1)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444426)

Now you'll have a fresh material to argue which came first...

Re:Lends more to the old paradox chicken or the eg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31448992)

yes, you're suggesting that maybe the cock came first?

Re:Lends more to the old paradox chicken or the eg (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31449008)

not exactly unheard of

How to Sex Chicks (1)

handy_vandal (606174) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444496)

When I was about five years old, I happened to find my grandfather's copy of How to Sex Chicks. I didn't know much about the reproductive act, but I knew that there was something provocative about the phrase "sex chicks", although the book itself, on close examination, seemed innocent enough (how to tell if a baby chicken is a boy chicken or a girl chicken).

Re:How to Sex Chicks (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447330)

I wonder how many people who work at a farm talked about sexing chicks at length in public (like in a bar) just to creep out the people around them?

"Man, yesterday I spent all day sexing chicks. After ten hours of sexing I was pretty beat."
"Yeah, I know. And sometimes you stuff 'em into the box and some manage to get out and you have to go after them..."
"Worst thing is, it turned out half of them were male. What do we do with three hundred male chicks?"
"Well, you could sell them to that cat food factory."

What took so long? (0)

Gertlex (722812) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444532)

Seriously. What I'm inferring from the article is that you can see the difference in the cells, e.g. male vs. female....

So how the hell have they never noticed that female and male birds have these slightly different cells before, and reached the non-hormone driven conclusion before this?

Re:What took so long? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444872)

So how the hell have they never noticed that female and male birds have these slightly different cells before, and reached the non-hormone driven conclusion before this?

The main problem is that when they got a sample of these chickens, they always arrived just before lunch, so they had a barbeque instead of inspecting them. With the recent budget cuts at the Post Office, the deliverys now arrive after lunch.

Re:What took so long? (1)

Muros (1167213) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444960)

Seriously. What I'm inferring from the article is that you can see the difference in the cells, e.g. male vs. female....

So how the hell have they never noticed that female and male birds have these slightly different cells before, and reached the non-hormone driven conclusion before this?

What they're saying is that the development of cells seems to be independent of the hormones that are present in the bloodstream. In mammals of mixed sex, the development of the entire body depends on the mix of hormones, you do not see distinct male and female parts of the body, even if the cells in those body parts are predominantly genetically of one sex. With these chickens the opposite is the case, and you could not infer that from studying a normal single sex bird.

Re:What took so long? (2, Informative)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445102)

Seriously. What I'm inferring from the article is that you can see the difference in the cells, e.g. male vs. female....

Yeah you can see that their sex chromosomes are different.

So how the hell have they never noticed that female and male birds have these slightly different cells before, and reached the non-hormone driven conclusion before this?

Because to notice this you have to specifically study the birds who have cells that are mixed between male and female, and then notice that the sexual characteristics vary over the same organism in accordance with which cells are male and which female.

Otherwise, you're just observing that a chicken is genetically male or female, and has male or female traits. That doesn't distinguish between a per-cell sexual determination, and mammals' overall hormone-based one.

silly (3, Informative)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444534)

It's well known that birds have a completely different sex determination mechanism than mammals. For example, mammals (other than the platypus) use X/Y or X/0 chromosomes to determine sex. Birds on the other hand use Z/W chromosomes for sex determination, as do most fish, some insects and some reptiles. So the big eyed "Ooooh, who would've thunk that birds aren't handling it the way we mammals do?" attitude of the article seems kind of silly considering we've known about this striking difference for a long time. Imagine that it actually mattered... Suspect they just wanted a reason to publish those cool pictures.

Re:silly (2, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445012)

Birds on the other hand use Z/W chromosomes for sex determination, as do most fish, some insects and some reptiles. So the big eyed "Ooooh, who would've thunk that birds aren't handling it the way we mammals do?" attitude of the article seems kind of silly considering we've known about this striking difference for a long time.

Okay, but knowing that the nature of the sex chromosomes is different isn't the same as knowing that the overall mechanism by which the sex of the organisms is determined is different. The assumption was that it was still essentially the same -- sex chromosome in the egg cell ends up controlling the formation of male or female gonads, which then release male or female hormones, which then control the sexual characteristics of the organism as a whole. And this is pretty reasonable on its face, since chickens do develop male/female gonads which do release sex hormones. It's largely the same, right up to the point where those hormones are what determine sex for every cell or not.

In mammals that's the case. Every cell in your body could be carrying X/Y chromosomes, but if due to some disorder you aren't producing male hormones but instead female ones, you will acquire female secondary sexual characteristics.

Now we know this isn't the case for birds, that every cell has its own sexual identity independent of hormones, and no we have not known about this striking difference until now.

Re:silly (1)

ascari (1400977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445576)

I see your point, but we've always known that there are many different mechanisms in play on the chemical level (like pH in some fishes), the genetic/chromosomal level, the cellular level and the organism level even within classes. Consider single cell organisms with "genders": at the most primitive level hormones have no role, whereas genetics does. Is it reasonable to assume that this could have carried over to some higher organisms?

I thought TFA even concedes that this very mechanism has been observed before in insects and some mammals. When Clinton says "We assumed that sex determination in birds would follow the mammal pattern" it makes me wonder why he made that assumption, or if it was just a convenient null hypothesis. Or if it just a buildup to how truly "amazing" the discovery is. Given the differences in chromosomal origin of sex between different animal groups wouldn't it have been equally reasonable to assume that the developmental patterns would diverge? In other words, given that we know that sexual differentiation is a phenomenon that has evolved at multiple times via multiple genetic mechanisms in multiple phyla, classes and orders why should we assume that the implementation on the organism level would be identical? Isn't it more intuitive that there would be differences? But finding the "unexpected" makes for a better article than finding the expected...

Re:silly (2, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445676)

why should we assume that the implementation on the organism level would be identical? Isn't it more intuitive that there would be differences? But finding the "unexpected" makes for a better article than finding the expected...

Nobody ever thought they'd be identical, and of course there will be differences. That's not the same as expecting it to be completely opposite.

Expecting some kind of difference is not the same as expecting this difference. This difference was unexpected.

You can't say that because a difference of some kind is to be expected, that therefore whatever difference actually shows up was also expected. That's what strikes me as silly.

Re:silly (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446364)

In other words, given that we know that sexual differentiation is a phenomenon that has evolved at multiple times via multiple genetic mechanisms in multiple phyla, classes and orders why should we assume that the implementation on the organism level would be identical?

Do we know that it has occurred more than once (with the evolution of eukaryotes [wikipedia.org] )? My impression was, despite the process of sexual differentiation being remarkably variable in its manifestation, there's no indication that it came about more than once.

Re:silly (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31445314)

Platypus? Who'd be weird enough to mention a platypus on slashdot?
Waitaminute... Hans [google.com] , is that you?

Re:silly (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447388)

It's probably also worth mentioning sex determination in reptiles, which is sometimes determined by the temperature the eggs were incubated at, rather than simply by what chromosomes were transferred. Biology can be a wild thing.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=experts-temperature-sex-determination-reptiles [scientificamerican.com]

Changing Sex (1)

spribyl (175893) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444596)

So I wonder if the applies to spices that can change sex at "will". I seem to recall that there are some fish, frogs and lizards that can do this.

Re:Changing Sex (2, Informative)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444682)

No... I’m thinking those species would have sexes which were entirely hormone-driven.

That’s basically the exact opposite of the chickens, in which sexes apparently have very little to do with hormones, and are entirely based on the genetics of the cells.

Humans would be somewhere in between. A man will grow breasts if you give him enough hormones, but you’ll have to do something surgically to change the penis...

Re:Changing Sex (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445282)

Humans would be somewhere in between. A man will grow breasts if you give him enough hormones, but you'll have to do something surgically to change the penis...

My gf showed me pictures in her biology text of what were genetically men who appeared externally to be completely female, including with vaginas. Internally they lacked a uterus.

Re:Changing Sex (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31446388)

> A man will grow breasts if you give him enough hormones, but you’ll have to do something surgically to change the penis...

The female is the base body type for humans. Everyone starts with a "female" body, but men produce chemicals called androgens that turn them into men. With things like AIS, people who are genetically male can end up with what appear to be female bodies.

So, basically, you have it backwards. The androgens make female-looking bodies into males. There's no reverse of that (e.g. you can't ungrow a penis).

Re:Changing Sex (1)

northernfrights (1653323) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444728)

You forgot dinosaurs.

Re:Changing Sex (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444856)

Which spice section are you shopping in?!

Hurray! (2, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444600)

Now we can produce twice as many chicken breasts.

I suppose we’d better not be going off half-cocked, though. More grant money!

Re:Hurray! (1)

yourexhalekiss (833943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444888)

There should be a "bad puns" mod option...

Re:Hurray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31445042)

I need an eggsample on that.

Re:Hurray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31445638)

-1, Punishment

Re:Hurray! (1)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447238)

There is. It's +1 Funny.

Re:Hurray! (1)

igny (716218) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447128)

Now we can produce twice as many chicken breasts.

I'd be more impressed if they found a confused half-chicken half-buffalo.

Birds and the Bees (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31444730)

What does this mean for "the birds and the bees" now?

This thread... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31444800)

really puts me in a fowl mood...

So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31444804)

Is Sam a straight cock with a confusing lesbian side?

Doesn't apply to Slashdot (1)

Nomaxxx (1136289) | more than 4 years ago | (#31444876)

that as we all know is 100% male oriented.

Badly formed title (1)

101010_or_0x2A (1001372) | more than 4 years ago | (#31445038)

Did anyone else wonder how " Half-Male, Half-Female Fowl" can explain anything to anyone, seeing as they are...fowl?

hom&o (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31445448)

OF AMERICA) today, purposes *BSD is

interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31445544)

When I was younger my grandfather told me that one of the ducks he had switched sex's when the female of the trio died,
I never believed him...

But maybe it was more plausible then I thought

Who cares about the details??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31446044)

Holy Shit, Talking Birds!!!!

Jurassic Park (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31446192)

No need for the ridiculous frogs in the plot anymore !

Oh great! (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31446932)

Another story about Al Gore.

Bi Bi Birdie (1)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31447076)

Any bird can teach you something about the birds and the bees, assuming of course, that you're not a bee.

I would have thought that (1)

ezzthetic (976321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31448110)

the fact that it can talk, and apparently give a scientific lecture, would have been seen as much more newsworthy.

"Half cock"? (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 4 years ago | (#31448150)

Wow. How often will you ever read that outside of a police report about a domestic dispute?

Scientifically, this headline.. (1)

formfeed (703859) | more than 4 years ago | (#31448302)

.. wasn't that interesting. The only reason to click on this story is to read some /.ers comments.

A similar thing can happen in humans. (1)

msu320 (1084789) | more than 4 years ago | (#31448970)

They call it Chimerism. Sorry to cook your goose... video part 1 [youtube.com] video part 2 [youtube.com] Link 1 [wikipedia.org] Link 2 [wordpress.com]
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