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J Hered. 2006 Mar-Apr;97(2):107-13. Epub 2006 Feb 17.

Iberian origins of New World horse breeds.

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  • 1Centro de Biologia Ambiental, Departamento de Biologia Animal, Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa, Edifício C2-Piso 3, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal.


Fossil records, archaeological proofs, and historical documents report that horses persisted continuously in the Iberian Peninsula since the Pleistocene and were taken to the American continent (New World) in the 15th century. To investigate the variation within the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region of Iberian and New World horse breeds, to analyze their relationships, and to test the historical origin of New World horses, a total of 153 samples, representing 30 Iberian and New World breeds, were analyzed by sequencing mtDNA control region fragments. Fifty-four haplotypes were found and assigned to seven haplogroups. Reduced levels of variation found for the Menorquina, Sorraia, and Sulphur Mustang breeds are consistent with experienced bottlenecks or limited number of founders. For all diversity indices, Iberian breeds showed higher diversity values than South American and North American breeds. Although, the results show that the Iberian and New World breeds stem from multiple origins, we present a set of genetic data revealing a high frequency of Iberian haplotypes in New World breeds, which is consistent with historical documentation.

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