Ancient cattle genomics, origins, and rapid turnover in the Fertile Crescent

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Science  12 Jul 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6449, pp. 173-176
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav1002

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How cow genomes have moo-ved

Cattle were domesticated ∼10,000 years ago, but analysis of modern breeds has not elucidated their origins. Verdugo et al. performed genome-wide analysis of 67 ancient Near Eastern Bos taurus DNA samples. Several populations of ancient aurochs were progenitors of domestic cows. These genetic lineages mixed ∼4000 years ago in a region around the Indus Valley. Interestingly, mitochondrial analysis indicated that genetic material likely derived from arid-adapted Bos indicus (zebu) bulls was introduced by introgression.

Science, this issue p. 173


Genome-wide analysis of 67 ancient Near Eastern cattle, Bos taurus, remains reveals regional variation that has since been obscured by admixture in modern populations. Comparisons of genomes of early domestic cattle to their aurochs progenitors identify diverse origins with separate introgressions of wild stock. A later region-wide Bronze Age shift indicates rapid and widespread introgression of zebu, Bos indicus, from the Indus Valley. This process was likely stimulated at the onset of the current geological age, ~4.2 thousand years ago, by a widespread multicentury drought. In contrast to genome-wide admixture, mitochondrial DNA stasis supports that this introgression was male-driven, suggesting that selection of arid-adapted zebu bulls enhanced herd survival. This human-mediated migration of zebu-derived genetics has continued through millennia, altering tropical herding on each continent.

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