Bone health or performance? : adaptation response of genetically divergent chicken layer lines to a nutritive calcium depletion
In modern laying hybrids, calcium (Ca) homeostasis is immensely challenged by daily eggshell calcification. However, excessive mobilization of Ca from bones may lead to osteoporosis, which then manifests in a high incidence of poor bone quality. The aim of this study was to characterize the hens' adaptation response to an alternating dietary Ca restriction. The animal model consisted of four purebred layer lines, differing in laying performance (high vs. moderately performing lines) and phylogenetic origin (white- vs. brown-egg lines). According to the resource allocation theory, hens selected for high egg production were assumed to show a different response pattern to cope with this nutritive challenge compared to moderately performing lines. Data collected included egg number, egg quality traits, body weight and bone characteristics. The Ca depletion led to a temporary drop in egg production and shell quality and a loss of bone stability due to Ca mobilization. The white-egg lines response was more pronounced, whereas the brown-egg lines were less sensitive towards reduced Ca supply. Our study shows that the hens' responsiveness to coping with a nutritive Ca depletion is not ultimately linked to genetic selection for increased egg production but rather to phylogenetic origin.