March 15, 2012

Small number of founders of modern Taurine Cattle

Mol Biol Evol (2012) doi: 10.1093/molbev/mss092

Modern Taurine Cattle descended from small number of Near-Eastern founders

Ruth Bollongino et al.


Archaeozoological and genetic data indicate that taurine cattle were first domesticated from local wild ox (aurochs) in the Near East some 10,500 years ago. However, while modern mitochondrial DNA variation indicates early Holocene founding event(s), a lack of ancient DNA data from the region of origin, variation in mutation rate estimates and limited application of appropriate inference methodologies have resulted in uncertainty on the number of animals first domesticated. A large number would be expected if cattle domestication was a technologically straightforward and unexacting region-wide phenomenon, while a smaller number would be consistent with a more complex and challenging process. We report mitochondrial DNA sequences from 15 Neolithic to Iron Age Iranian domestic cattle and, in conjunction with modern data, use serial coalescent simulation and approximate Bayesian computation to estimate that around 80 female aurochs were initially domesticated. Such a low number is consistent with archaeological data indicating that initial domestication took place in a restricted area and suggests the process was constrained by the difficulty of sustained managing and breeding of the wild progenitors of domestic cattle.



Charles Nydorf said...

I wonder how a creature like the aurochs ever came to be domesticated. Eduard Hahn proposed a theory in the 1900's and I know of no more recent research.

Grey said...

Eighty could mean one guy or a man, son and grandson. Later on an improved breed could also stem from one family also. Interesting scope for founder effects.

pconroy said...

I'm thinking that the Aurochen --> Cattle domestication, might be similar to the Wolves --> Dogs domestication, and in fact easier accomplished that it seems.

I has been suggested that Wolves probably at least partly self-domesticated, due to hanging around humans to scavenge. Then natural selection for tame wolves kicked in - as otherwise they would be too fearful and or get into conflict with humans and be killed - resulting in dogs.

As I previously suggested years ago, goats are the easiest way for humans to clear forests, as goats eat shoots and leaves of saplings, and so don't allow for forest re-growth. So if there are goat herds, there will be forest clearances, and once you have forest clearances, you have pasturage and this would attract Aurochsen. They will also try and eat crops planted in the clearances. So again, you have a situation whereby natural selection for tamer, smaller more manageable Aurochsen kicks in, resulting in cattle.

Thoughts anyone??