September 12, 2009

Geographic patterning of goats from Greece, Albania, and Italy

BMC Ecol. 2009 Sep 2;9(1):20. [Epub ahead of print]

Geographical patterning of sixteen goat breeds from Italy, Albania and Greece assessed by Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms.

Pariset L, Cuteri A, Ligda C, Ajmone-Marsan P, Valentini A, Consortium E.

ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: SNP data of goats of three Mediterranean countries were used for population studies and reconstruction of geographical patterning. 496 individuals belonging to Italian, Albanian and Greek breeds were genotyped to assess the basic population parameters. RESULTS: A total of 26 SNPs were used, for a total of 12,896 genotypes assayed. Statistical analysis revealed that breeds are not so similar in terms of genetic variability, as reported in studies performed using different markers. The Mantel test showed a strongly significant correlation between genetic and geographic distance. Also, PCA analysis revealed that breeds are grouped according to geographical origin, with the exception of the Greek Skopelos breed. CONCLUSION: Our data point out that the use of SNP markers to analyze a wider breed sample could help in understanding the recent evolutionary history of domestic goats. We found correlation between genetic diversity and geographic distance. Also PCA analysis shows that the breeds are well differentiated, with good correspondence to geographical locations, thus confirming the correlation between geographical and genetic distances. This suggests that migration history of the species played a pivotal role in the present-day structure of the breeds and a scenario in which coastal routes were easier for migrating in comparison with inland routes. A westward coastal route to Italy through Greece could have led to gene flow along the Northern Mediterranean.



Andrew Lancaster said...

It will be very interesting if they look at distinct Mediterranean islands, and if they can compare to goats from North Africa and Middle East.

Maju said...

I really can imagine the Cardial Pottery peoples migrating on their ships with a bunch of goats aboard.

This is one of the specifics of CP culture, that bovines are initially absent and instead ovicaprids abound. Too often archaeologists can't differentiate a sheep from a goat but I figure that goats are more appropriate to carry aboard of ships because they don't get easily annoyed (the only problem could be if they ate the ropes or sails, as these animals are known to eat everything they can grab).

pconroy said...


As someone who has owned goats and seen them in action, it would also make perfect sense for migrating farmers to introduce goats first, as they will quickly de-forest - by both stripping bark off mature trees, and eating shoots and saplings - an area, and so make it easy to turn into farmland. People often wonder how with crude bronze tools early agriculturists manages to hew large trees, my theory is that goats did the job for them.

It's well known in the Age of Exploration, sailors would leave some breeding livestock on islands, so that on return trips, maybe months or years later, they would be able to stop by and hunt some of them for food.

Maju said...

Actually with stone tools: there were no bronze or even copper tools until much later (though unalloyed copper tools were not better than stone ones anyhow).

But that should not have been a problem in the Mediterranean, where forests are much less dense and large areas are just scrub (maquis).

Still you do have a point as goats being great clearing "machines": they eat nearly all and pretty quick.

terryt said...

I too have had quite a bit to do with goats and agree with you both. And you only have to be in West Africa for five minutes and you can see why the Sahara is expanding: goats, perhaps aided a little by a drying climate. But then that drying climate may be caused by de-vegetationing anyway.

Unknown said...

During the period in question the islands and coastal lands would not have been just scrub.

It is highly doubtful goats would have been used to deal with forested islands, many of which had quite substantial stands of oak.

It was much easier, even in the stone age, to use human lumber to fell lumber. In fact stone axes were not preferable just to copper but also to bronze and other alloys.

No, goats were not used for clearing trees.