Red light is necessary to activate the reproductive axis in chickens independently of the retina of the eye

Baxter M1, Joseph N, Osborne VR, Bédécarrats GY

Photoperiod is essential in manipulating sexual maturity and reproductive performance in avian species. Light can be perceived by photoreceptors in the retina of the eye, pineal gland, and hypothalamus. However, the relative sensitivity and specificity of each organ to wavelength, and consequently the physiological effects, may differ. The purpose of this experiment was to test the impacts of light wavelengths on reproduction, growth, and stress in laying hens maintained in cages and to determine whether the retina of the eye is necessary. Individual cages in 3 optically isolated sections of a single room were equipped with LED strips providing either pure green, pure red or white light (red, green, and blue) set to 10 lx (hens levels). The involvement of the retina on mediating the effects of light wavelength was assessed by using a naturally blind line (Smoky Joe) of chickens. Red and white lights resulted in higher estradiol concentrations after photostimulation, indicating stronger ovarian activation, which translated into a significantly lower age at first egg when compared with the green light. Similarly, hens maintained under red and white lights had a longer and higher peak production and higher cumulative egg number than hens under green light. No significant difference in BW gain was observed until sexual maturation. However, from 23 wk of age onward, birds exposed to green light showed higher body growth, which may be the result of their lower egg production. Although corticosterone levels were higher at 20 wk of age in hens under red light, concentrations were below levels that can be considered indicative of stress. Because no significant differences were observed between blind and sighted birds maintained under red and white light, the retina of the eye did not participate in the activation of reproduction. In summary, red light was required to stimulate the reproductive axis whereas green light was ineffective, and the effects of stimulatory wavelengths do not appear to require a functional retina of the eye.

Link to Pubmed

Posted in 2014 Publications, Publication Bedecarrats, Publications.