Ancient wild horses help unlock past

An international team of researchers has used ancient DNA to produce compelling evidence that the lack of genetic diversity in modern stallions is the result of the domestication process. The team, which was led by Professor Michi Hofreiter from the University of York, UK, has carried out the first study on Y chromosomal DNA sequences from extinct ancient wild horses and found an abundance of diversity.

The results, which are published in Nature Communications, suggest the almost complete absence of genetic diversity in modern male horses is not based on properties intrinsic to wild horses, but on the domestication process itself.

Professor Hofreiter said: “Unlike modern female domestic horses where there is plenty of diversity, genetic diversity in male horses is practically zero. One hypothesis to explain this suggests modern horses have little Y chromosome diversity because the wild horses from which they were domesticated were also not diverse, due in part to the harem mating system in horses, implying skewed reproductive success of males. Our results reject this hypothesis as the Y chromosome diversity in ancient wild horses is high. Instead our results suggest that the lack of genetic diversity in modern horses is a direct consequence of the domestication process itself.”

The Y chromosome is a valuable tool in population genetics, providing a means of directly assessing evolutionary processes that only affect the paternal lineage. So far mitochondrial DNA studies have failed to discover the origin of domestic horses. However, these new Y chromosomal markers now open the possibility of solving this issue in detail.

More here Ancient wild horses help unlock past.

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3 Responses to Ancient wild horses help unlock past

  1. alfy says:

    A very interesting post for a hopeless hippophile like me. Lots of thought-provoking ideas in the link you offered. It used to be said that modern horses, nominally Equus caballus, were not a proper natural species as a result of all the domestication. However, they revert quickly to natural wild behaviour if they are turned loose or escape. Note the mustangs in North America, or the Brumbies in Australia.

  2. Deskarati says:

    I never knew you were a lover of hippos Alfy! (I bet you knew I was going to say that, didn’t you)

  3. alfy says:

    Hippo = horse as you well know, Jim. Hippopotamus = river horse

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