Scientists at the University of Delaware are working to breed more heat-resistant chickens to better survive climate change, specifically at the African naked-neck chicken. The bird’s lack of neck feathers helps keep it cool — a model for what it might take for an animal to thrive in higher temperatures. Theoretically, incorporating some of the characteristics of the African chicken in U.S. breeds could create a more adaptable bird—and more food in the long run.
“We have to start now to anticipate what changes we have to make in order to feed 9 billion people,” Carl Schmidt, one of the researchers, told the Los Angeles Times. According to Schmidt, the hardier chickens could begin to be mass-produced within 15 years. As America warms up, they’ll certainly be useful, but the new animals are also relevant in the short-term for small-scale farming in Africa.
The experiment is one of the first attempts to kickstart evolution’s reaction to the climate catastrophe we find ourselves in. Too bad humans aren’t changing quite as quickly.