But a new study, just published in the journal "PNAS", shows that cattle genetic composition in the continent, especially among the South European breeds, seems to be much more diverse than previously thought, and, consequently, can be an important source of biodiversity and economic potential.
Cattle domestication was one of the most important events behind the Neolithic agricultural revolution and it is believed to have started about 11,000 years ago. It led to changes, not only in alimentation, but also in human behaviour and affected the whole socioeconomic structure of society. Two major sites of cattle domestication are thought to have existed: the Indus valley (now Pakistan) where the taurine (Bos Taurus) cattle emerged, and the Fertile Crescent in the Near East where the zebu (Bos indicus) cattle appeared. These two groups resulted most probably from the domestication of two different types of the wild ancestral breed (Bos primigenius). A further domestication locus, this time in Africa, has also been proposed.
Based on the available genetic and archaeological evidence it was believed that European cattle was directly descendent from the domesticated group which emerged in the Near East and then, following the migration of the herbing and farming lifestyle, spread from the southeast to the north west. Surprisingly however, these data also supported the idea that European cattle never bred with the wild ancestral breeds (Bos primigenius) existent in Europe despite the fact that the two groups have coexisted for thousands of years in the continent, or with African domesticated cattle.
But now Albano Beja-Pereira and colleagues from several laboratories around Europe and Morocco have compared the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from the remains of five Bos primigenius found in Italy and never studied before, with more than 1,000 individuals from both European and African modern breeds.
Mitochondrial DNA is found outside of the nucleus and, unlike the rest of the cell’s genetic material, is passed intact from mother to children. This is a big advantage for genetic studies as it serves as an “identity tag” marking continuous lines of descendants, which allows researchers to follow lineages for as far as millions of years.
The research now published found that the mtDNA from the five ancestral individuals was much more similar to modern continental European cattle, especially to Italian cattle, than to the breeds found in the Near East. This observation supports the view that there were several episodes of inter- breeding in the continent between the cattle originated in the Near East and local Bos primigenius. It was also found that South European cattle shared several sequences of their mtDNA with their counterparts in North African, sequences which were not found in the Near East specimens. This last result supports the idea of independent domestication episodes in Africa, and also seems to imply further genetic mixtures in European cattle, although this time only among the southern European breeds.
What is important about this study is the fact that shows that European cattle, especially in Southern Europe, is much more varied genetically than previously believed. Breeds introduced in Europe from those animals domesticated in the Near East seem to have mixed both with local wild animals but also with African cattle which probably entered the southern part of the European continent through the sea.
Cattle, like other livestock species, are important components of world biodiversity, especially because their genetic pool can be crucial to agriculture in the future. A high genetic diversity is crucial to prevent inbreeding and the loss of genes important for the maintenance of good quality specimens. In a time when the world population is steadily increasing, the genetic variability of South European cattle can be seen as an important source of genetic improvement for cattle around the world.
Piece researched and written by: Catarina Amorim (email@example.com)
Catarina Amorim | alfa
Complementing conventional antibiotics
24.05.2018 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
Building a brain, cell by cell: Researchers make a mini neuron network (of two)
23.05.2018 | Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
The historic first detection of gravitational waves from colliding black holes far outside our galaxy opened a new window to understanding the universe. A...
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
24.05.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
24.05.2018 | Medical Engineering
24.05.2018 | Physics and Astronomy