Time to Tap Africa's Livestock Genomes

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Science  25 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5986, pp. 1640-1641
DOI: 10.1126/science.1186254

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If you travel across rural Africa looking for livestock such as cows, pigs, and goats, rather than scenic or wildlife wonders, you will be struck by the extraordinary diversity of its indigenous breeds (1). But the visual wonders of coat color or horn shape are only the tip of the iceberg. Looking deeper, a world of Darwinian adaptations—from the ability to tolerate parasites to robust milk production—waits to be discovered, understood, and used. The scientific community has largely ignored these adaptations. Now, however, we have the opportunity, by combining genomic and geo-environmental data, to unravel African livestock adaptations and to use this information to aid sustainable breeding improvements and development. But we must act soon: The genetic diversity of Africa's indigenous livestock is now threatened by a range of economic and demographic forces.