Most Modern Horses Came From Just Two Ancient Lineages

Опубликовано 29 июня 2017, 17:02
Horse breeding records are some of the most impressive efforts to chronicle animal lineages in human history, with some stretching back thousands of years. Yet decoding the genetic origins of today’s horses has proven remarkably difficult. Now, a new study finds that nearly all modern horse breeds can be traced to two distinct, ancient Middle Eastern lines that were brought to Europe around 700 years ago. Understanding how these horses were traded, gifted, or stolen could shed light on human history as Eastern and Western civilization comingled and collided. Researchers first located dozens of variations in a segment of DNA along the Y chromosomes of 52 living male horses representing 21 modern breeds. As tiny mutations pop up in a stallion’s Y chromosome, they are inherited by all of its future male progeny, allowing geneticists to trace which males came from which paternal line. Based on the mutation rate and assuming an average of 7 years between each generation, researchers estimate the most recent common ancestor to 18 of the 21 modern breeds lived about 700 years ago. Three Northern European breeds—the Shetland pony, the Norwegian Fjord horse, and the Icelandic horse—appear more distantly related to the others.

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