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By Barbara Goode

Knowing when a chick is a chick

It’s easy to tell male cardinals from females because of their bright plumage. But say you’re a farmer or bird breeder. And your livelihood depends, in part, on knowing the gender of your birds—but you’re dealing with a breed doesn’t have such convenient gender-linked identifiers. What do you do?

In the past, endoscopic investigations, blood analysis, and molecular biological methods were your only options (birds lack external sex organs). But now, thanks to a new application of UV-resonance Raman spectroscopy, you can simply analyze a feather from the bird in question.

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“Sample preparation for this investigation method is simple and facilitates a quick and easy analysis,” say researchers in Jena, Germany, who authored a recent paper, published by the American Chemical Society, called “Minimal Invasive Gender Determination of Birds by Means of UV-Resonance Raman Spectroscopy” (http://dx.doi.org./10.1021/ac702043q). “The UV-resonance Raman spectra of the feather pulp sample extracts are dominated by DNA and protein signals,” the researchers explain. “The different DNA content in male and female chickens allows for gender differentiation via its characteristic Raman fingerprint.”

The method takes less than a minute and claims accuracy rates of 95%.


Testimony of vision-corrected patient upheld in court

MSN in India (news.in.msn.com) reports that the country’s Supreme Court ruled to allow testimony of a witness who had undergone vision correction surgery that was instrumental in convicting an accused for offences committed in the dark. “On a dark night, ocular identification may be difficult in some cases, but if a person is acquainted and closely related to another, from the manner of speech, gait and voice, identification is possible,” the apex court observed, dismissing the appeal of Dalbir Singh, who was sentenced to life for murder. The murder related to a land dispute in the family and Dalbir Singh killed his uncle Ram Partap with the help of some others. The sessions court acquitted the other accused while sentencing Singh to life on the basis of witness testimony of his grandfather, who had undergone eye surgery. The decision was affirmed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, and was then appealed in the apex court. Singh, in his appeal before the apex court argued that the other accused had been acquitted and only he was convicted—on the statement of his grandfather, who had undergone eye surgery, that he saw the murder in the darkness.


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