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Oldest livestock genome reveals the origin of today’s goats


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_xlarge.jpeg Ancient hunters and farmers living in the foothills and valleys of western Iran’s verdant highlands may have been among the first people to 1623199213-db6d4f2854e2cbe94db5d9337d171b4e.jpgdomesticate livestock. Now, a new study—which includes the oldest livestock genome yet sequenced—bolsters that notion, appearing to capture genetic and archaeological evidence of a transitional stage between wild-hunted goats and their domesticated descendants.

The study has captured “the ’ground zero’ for goat domestication, or close to it,” says David MacHugh, an animal geneticist at University College Dublin. 

Researchers analyzed bones, like this leg bone, and ancient DNA from goats unearthed at two sites in western Iran. 

The pattern of male and female goat remains at these sites was the first clue that people were likely managing herds, not just hunting them. “Hunters and herders target different kinds of animals,” Zeder explains. “Hunters are after the ‘bang for your buck’ fast return, so they go for big adults.” Herders, meanwhile, care less about individual size, focusing instead on keeping females alive to sustain and grow the herd, she says. As a result, herders tend to cull most young males and keep lots of older females.

Comparing the ancient goat DNA with that of modern wild goats from the region, the scientists found distinct genetic clusters indicating the apparently managed goats were being bred with one another, they report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This is a fascinating study,” says Cheryl Makarewicz, an archaeozoologist at the University of Kiel who wasn’t involved with the work. The results suggest the earliest livestock herders tinkered with management strategies before they succeeded in domesticating their animals, she adds. “There was a lot of experimentation going on.”

Source: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/06/oldest-livestock-genome-reveals-origin-today-s-goats

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