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Proc Biol Sci. 1996 Nov 22;263(1376):1467-73.

Ancient DNA suggests a recent expansion of European cattle from a diverse wild progenitor species.

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  • 1University of Oxford, Department of Cellular Science, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, U.K.


A total of 11 Bos primigenius and Bos taurus bones from archaeological sites between 500 and 12000 years old were examined for the presence of DNA. It was possible to amplify and sequence mitochondrial control region DNA extracted from seven of the 11 samples, including two Pleistocene B. primigenius samples. We compared the results with published data by constructing phylogenetic networks. The two B. primigenius samples clustered with the extant B. taurus samples in the networks. The similarity between B. primigenius and modern taurine cattle confirms that these should be considered members of a single species. The sequences obtained from the B. taurus specimens were either identical to the reference sequence for modern European cattle or closely related to it. They included two sequences not previously documented. The network analysis of the ancient data highlights the intermediary nature of the B. primigenius sequences between modern European and African B. taurus and the proximity of the ancient DNA B. taurus sequences to modern European B. taurus. Further analysis of the extant data in the light of the ancient DNA results suggests that a degree of Pleistocene diversity survives in the extant European Bos population that is mainly derived from a more recent population expansion.

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