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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 May 23;103(21):8113-8. Epub 2006 May 11.

The origin of European cattle: evidence from modern and ancient DNA.

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  • 1Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos (CIBIO-UP) and Secção Autónoma de Engenharia de Ciências Agrárias, Universidade do Porto, 4485-661 Vairão, Portugal.

Abstract

Cattle domestication from wild aurochsen was among the most important innovations during the Neolithic agricultural revolution. The available genetic and archaeological evidence points to at least two major sites of domestication in India and in the Near East, where zebu and the taurine breeds would have emerged independently. Under this hypothesis, all present-day European breeds would be descended from cattle domesticated in the Near East and subsequently spread during the diffusion of herding and farming lifestyles. We present here previously undescribed genetic evidence in contrast with this view, based on mtDNA sequences from five Italian aurochsen dated between 7,000 and 17,000 years B.P. and >1,000 modern cattle from 51 breeds. Our data are compatible with local domestication events in Europe and support at least some levels of introgression from the aurochs in Italy. The distribution of genetic variation in modern cattle suggest also that different south European breeds were affected by introductions from northern Africa. If so, the European cattle may represent a more variable and valuable genetic resource than previously realized, and previous simple hypotheses regarding the domestication process and the diffusion of selected breeds should be revised.

PMID:
16690747
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1472438
Free PMC Article

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