Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Greg Fraley, Biology; Dr. Phillip Rivera, Biology

Document Type


Event Date



The Pekin duck is a valuable agricultural commodity in the U.S. Pekin ducks are seasonal breeders; they are sensitive to light and thus, research on the neuroendocrine and behavioral responses are needed to overcome technological limitations. There is compelling evidence that specific wavelengths of light are required to improve the growth and welfare of meat (grow out) ducks. For example, blue light may not be ideal for grow out ducks due to considerably increased motor activity, significantly decreased body weight and increased serum corticosterone (cort) levels. Therefore, our objective is to determine the role of both deep brain photoreceptors (DBPs) and retina photoreceptors (RPs) during duck development. Two groups of ducks were raised with and without light over 21 days from egg laying, embryonic day zero. We then collected brain and retinal tissues of ducks at embryonic days 3, 7, 11, 16, and 21. To examine DBPs, we designed and created primers for 4 genes: OPN4, VAL-opsin, OPN5, and rhodopsin. For RPs, we designed and created primers for genes responsible for both cones (RH2, SWS1, SWS2, LWS opsins) and rods (rhodopsin, MAFA, IRBP in duck eye development. qRT-PCR was performed utilizing listed primers for DBP, RP rods, RP cones and reference gene, using 10 samples each for ducks raised in both light and dark conditions. RNA was then extracted from the tissue collected and qRT-PCR was performed. Understanding when these specific genes are upregulated across development will help the husbandry of duck by providing an ideal time for light usage during duck development. Future directions will determine which wavelength of light, at a specific time of development, is most suitable for grow out ducks.


This project was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2018-67016-27616 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Included in

Biology Commons