DNA Samples From Ancient Cattle Help Understand The Evolutionary History Of Domestic Cattle

DNA Samples From Ancient Cattle Help Understand The Evolutionary History Of Domestic Cattle


Scientists have collected DNA samples from ancient cattle to trace the origins of domestic cattle. According to a new study, the present-day cattle have sprung up from an ancient animal called Eurasian auroch. They were first domesticated in the region popularly known as the Fertile Crescent. This area comprises parts of what we currently know as the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Humans first domesticated these wild animals like cattle.

Researchers are now trying to understand the evolutionary history of this extinct animal that later branched off to domestic cows. As a part of the research, scientists analyzed DNA samples from aurochs, both wild and domesticated. The team of researchers drew out DNA from a total of 67 bovine samples. These samples were then analyzed and sequenced to trace their genetic code.

Marta Verdugo, an author of the study, said, ancient DNA offers a glance into the past that’s missing in modern genetics. She added it is true, particularly in case of domesticated animals and species that have been artificially selected and have been manipulated by humans. She is a technical support specialist at Oxford Nanopore Technologies.

The study proved that the DNA belonging to the domestic cattle from the initial period had segments of auroch DNA. The study found that the animals didn’t show signs of Zebu DNA before the last 4,000 years ago. DNA from this South Asian subspecies has been widely found from the Indus Valley. Scientists have found large traces of Zebu DNA in the new Middle Eastern cattle herds.

The study says that climate changes forced people around that time to deliberately interbreed auroch cattle with Zebu cattle to produce a line of drought-resistant hybrid animals. The research published in the journal Science is still at an introductory level and needs more evidence to support their hypothesis.