A quail research team at Texas A&M University-Commerce has published the first record of California valley quail chick development. Their research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, will accelerate new opportunities for quail management and conservation.
Kelly Reyna, Ph.D., is the team's principal investigator and director of The Quail Research Laboratory at A&M-Commerce.
“Prior to this discovery, we didn't have a reference point for comparison to determine how quail chick development is impacted by environmental factors,” Reyna said. “Now we do!”
Reyna's team has been researching ways to conserve U.S. quail species for decades. He said environmental factors including drought and extreme weather play a major role in the nation's declining quail populations. Yet, there was no previous baseline of normal valley quail chick development to compare with results from lab and field studies.
“Now that we have charted the normal stages of development for the California valley quail, new opportunities exist to study the impact of extreme climate and other environmental pressures,” said Shelby Perry, graduate research assistant in the Quail Research Laboratory and lead scientist on the project.
Perry incubated valley quail eggs at normal incubation conditions, then measured and photographed the embryos within the eggs every six hours during the two-year project. The photographs were grouped into 43 stages of normal development to create a baseline of comparison for future studies.
Jeffrey Whitt, Ph.D., is a research associate in The Quail Research Laboratory and co-author of the study.
“This is the most comprehensive study of development in a New World quail to date,” Whitt said. “It's something that has really been lacking in quail research and will prove to be invaluable for future studies.”
The Quail Research Laboratory is part of the new National Laboratory for Gamebird Research at A&M-Commerce, with the mission to foster sustainable gamebird populations through innovative research, education and collaboration. The research laboratory will be housed in a proposed agricultural education complex at A&M-Commerce, with funding approved by the Texas Legislature in October 2021.