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Ancient genomic changes associated with domestication of the horse

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Science  28 Apr 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6336, pp. 442-445
DOI: 10.1126/science.aam5298

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Ancient genomics of horse domestication

The domestication of the horse was a seminal event in human cultural evolution. Librado et al. obtained genome sequences from 14 horses from the Bronze and Iron Ages, about 2000 to 4000 years ago, soon after domestication. They identified variants determining coat color and genes selected during the domestication process. They could also see evidence of admixture with archaic horses and the demography of the domestication process, which included the accumulation of deleterious variants. The horse appears to have undergone a different type of domestication process than animals that were domesticated simply for food.

Science, this issue p. 442

Abstract

The genomic changes underlying both early and late stages of horse domestication remain largely unknown. We examined the genomes of 14 early domestic horses from the Bronze and Iron Ages, dating to between ~4.1 and 2.3 thousand years before present. We find early domestication selection patterns supporting the neural crest hypothesis, which provides a unified developmental origin for common domestic traits. Within the past 2.3 thousand years, horses lost genetic diversity and archaic DNA tracts introgressed from a now-extinct lineage. They accumulated deleterious mutations later than expected under the cost-of-domestication hypothesis, probably because of breeding from limited numbers of stallions. We also reveal that Iron Age Scythian steppe nomads implemented breeding strategies involving no detectable inbreeding and selection for coat-color variation and robust forelimbs.

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