Ancient goat genomes reveal mosaic domestication in the Fertile Crescent

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Science  06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 85-88
DOI: 10.1126/science.aas9411

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How humans got their goats

Little is known regarding the location and mode of the early domestication of animals such as goats for husbandry. To investigate the history of the goat, Daly et al. sequenced mitochondrial and nuclear sequences from ancient specimens ranging from hundreds to thousands of years in age. Multiple wild populations contributed to the origin of modern goats during the Neolithic. Over time, one mitochondrial type spread and became dominant worldwide. However, at the whole-genome level, modern goat populations are a mix of goats from different sources and provide evidence for a multilocus process of domestication in the Near East. Furthermore, the patterns described support the idea of multiple dispersal routes out of the Fertile Crescent region by domesticated animals and their human counterparts.

Science, this issue p. 85


Current genetic data are equivocal as to whether goat domestication occurred multiple times or was a singular process. We generated genomic data from 83 ancient goats (51 with genome-wide coverage) from Paleolithic to Medieval contexts throughout the Near East. Our findings demonstrate that multiple divergent ancient wild goat sources were domesticated in a dispersed process that resulted in genetically and geographically distinct Neolithic goat populations, echoing contemporaneous human divergence across the region. These early goat populations contributed differently to modern goats in Asia, Africa, and Europe. We also detect early selection for pigmentation, stature, reproduction, milking, and response to dietary change, providing 8000-year-old evidence for human agency in molding genome variation within a partner species.

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