Meet the weird bird that's half-chicken, half-turkey

This is the Transylvanian naked neck chicken, popularly known as the "churkey" because it appears to have the body of a chicken and the head of a turkey. And this mysterious mutation could actually help feed the world.

What makes the churkey - or, as it is also rather predictably known, the turken - appear turkey-like is its neck, which is completely devoid of feathers. Edinburgh University researchers believe this is the result of a mutation, which was then exacerbated and enhanced by the vitamin A-like substance produced in the bird's neck.

This substance in turn leads to the creation of a protein known as BMP12, which stops feather growth and leads to the bald neck that the churkey enjoys today. This is likely the same basic process that has given other naked-necked birds like vultures and ostriches their distinctive appearance, and it helps solve the evolutionary mystery of how so many different birds have gained naked necks when they don't have a common ancestor.

What's particularly cool about this mutation is that it could actually help save lives. Their naked necks make churkeys far better-equipped to handled hot tropical climates than their chicken counterparts, and their introduction could provide a much-needed jolt to poultry production in the developing world.

PLoS Biology via BBC News.