A research team from the University of Basel made a surprising find in a Neolithic settlement at the boarders of Lake Biel in Switzerland: The DNA of a cattle bone shows genetic traces of the European aurochs and thus adds a further facet to the history of cattle domestication. The journal Scientific Reports has published the results.
The modern cattle is the domesticated descendant of the aurochs, a wild species that became extinct in the 17th century. The aurochs' domestication already began roughly 10,000 years ago in the Near East. It is their DNA that reveals their ancestry:
Aurochs of the Near East carry a maternally inherited genetic signature (mtDNA) called T haplogroup. Modern cattle still carry this signature and thus show that they derive from these early domesticated cattle of the Near East. This suggests that with the spreading of early farmers from the Near East to Europa, the domesticated cattle was imported to Europe alongside.
Unlike the aurochs of the Near East, the local wild aurochs of Europe belonged to the P haplogroup. So far, scientists believed that the female European aurochs did not genetically influence the Near Eastern cattle imported during the Neolithic Age (5,500 – 2,200 BC).
Small sturdy cows as draft animals
Scientists from the University of Basel by accident found a very small metacarpal bone from a Neolithic cattle among other animal bones found in the lake settlement Twann in Switzerland and analyzed its mtDNA.
The analysis showed that the bovine bone carried the European aurochs' genetic signature of the P haplogroup. The bone thus represents the first indisputable evidence that female European aurochs also crossbred with domestic cattle from the Near East.
The bone, dated to around 3,100 BC, is evidence for the earlier crossbreeding between a wild female European aurochs with a domestic bull.
“If these were coincidental single events or rather cases of intentional crossbreeding cannot be clearly answered on the basis of our results”, explains Prof. Jörg Schibler, head of the research groups for Integrative Prehistoric and Archaeological Science (IPAS) from the Department Environmental Science at the University of Basel.
The animal, to which the bone belonged, was exceptionally small with a withers height of only 112 centimeters. “This raises a number of questions for us: How difficult was copulation or birth in this case? And how many generations did it take to develop such small animals?”, explains the archaeogenetics specialist Angela Schlumbaum in regards to the significance of the discovery.
The scientists assume that the early farmers of the Horgen culture (3,400 – 2,750 BC), to which the bone dates, could have been trying to create a new smaller and sturdier type of cattle especially suitable as draft animal by intentional crossbreeding with wild aurochs. This assumption would be in accordance with archaeological finds of wooden wheels, wagons and a yoke from the Horgen culture.
Schibler, J., Elsner, J. & Schlumbaum A.
Incorporation of aurochs into cattle hern in Neolithic Europe: single event or breeding?
Scientific Reports 4, 5798, published 23 July 2014 | doi: 10.1038/srep05798
Dr. Angela Schlumbaum, University of Basel, Department Environmental Science, phone: +41 61 201 02 18, email: Angela.Schlumbaum@unibas.ch
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep05798 - Abstract
Reto Caluori | Universität Basel
Gene switch may repair DNA and prevent cancer
12.02.2016 | Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences at Kyoto University
New method opens crystal clear views of biomolecules
11.02.2016 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY
Today, plants and microorganisms are heavily used for the production of medicinal products. The production of biopharmaceuticals in plants, also referred to as “Molecular Pharming”, represents a continuously growing field of plant biotechnology. Preferred host organisms include yeast and crop plants, such as maize and potato – plants with high demands. With the help of a special algal strain, the research team of Prof. Ralph Bock at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam strives to develop a more efficient and resource-saving system for the production of medicines and vaccines. They tested its practicality by synthesizing a component of a potential AIDS vaccine.
The use of plants and microorganisms to produce pharmaceuticals is nothing new. In 1982, bacteria were genetically modified to produce human insulin, a drug...
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock which attains an accuracy which had only been predicted theoretically so far. Their optical ytterbium clock achieved a relative systematic measurement uncertainty of 3 E-18. The results have been published in the current issue of the scientific journal "Physical Review Letters".
Atomic clock experts from the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) are the first research group in the world to have built an optical single-ion clock...
The University of Würzburg has two new space projects in the pipeline which are concerned with the observation of planets and autonomous fault correction aboard satellites. The German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy funds the projects with around 1.6 million euros.
Detecting tornadoes that sweep across Mars. Discovering meteors that fall to Earth. Investigating strange lightning that flashes from Earth's atmosphere into...
Physicists from Saarland University and the ESPCI in Paris have shown how liquids on solid surfaces can be made to slide over the surface a bit like a bobsleigh on ice. The key is to apply a coating at the boundary between the liquid and the surface that induces the liquid to slip. This results in an increase in the average flow velocity of the liquid and its throughput. This was demonstrated by studying the behaviour of droplets on surfaces with different coatings as they evolved into the equilibrium state. The results could prove useful in optimizing industrial processes, such as the extrusion of plastics.
The study has been published in the respected academic journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).
Exceeding critical temperature limits in the Southern Ocean may cause the collapse of ice sheets and a sharp rise in sea levels
A future warming of the Southern Ocean caused by rising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere may severely disrupt the stability of the West...
12.02.2016 | Event News
09.02.2016 | Event News
02.02.2016 | Event News
12.02.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
12.02.2016 | Life Sciences
12.02.2016 | Medical Engineering