The origin of domestic sheep finally elucidated

The origin of domestic sheep finally elucidated

Fri, 06/05/2022


Publication of the IGFL in the journal Animal genetics on March 14, 2022. CNRS-INEE communication on May 3, 2022.

We investigated the controversial origin of domestic sheep (Ovis aries) using large samples of contemporary and ancient domestic individuals and their closest wild relatives: the Asiatic mouflon (Ovis gmelini), the urial (Ovis vignei) and the argali (Ovis ammon). A phylogeny based on mitochondrial DNA, including 213 new cytochrome-b sequences of wild Ovism confirmed that O. gmelini is the maternal ancestor of sheep and precluded mtDNA contributions from O. vignei (and O. gmelini × O. vignei hybrids) to domestic lineages. We also produced 54 new control region sequences showing shared haplogroups (A, B, C and E) between domestic sheep and wild O. gmelini which localized the domestication center in eastern Anatolia and central Zagros, excluding regions further east where exclusively wild haplogroups were found. This overlaps with the geographic distribution of O. gmelini gmelini, further suggesting that the maternal origin of domestic sheep derives from this subspecies. Additionally, we produced 57 new CR sequences of Neolithic sheep remains from a large area covering Anatolia to Europe, showing the early presence of at least three mitochondrial haplogroups (A, B and D) in Western colonization routes. This confirmed that sheep domestication was a large-scale process that captured diverse maternal lineages (haplogroups).

Involved laboratories:

  • Archéozoologie, Archéobotanique : Sociétés, pratiques et environnements (AASPE - CNRS/MNHN)
  • Laboratoire d'Écologie Alpine (LECA - CNRS/Univ Grenoble Alpes / Univ Savoie Mont Blanc)
  • Institut de génomique fonctionnelle de Lyon (IGFL - CNRS/ENS de Lyon)


Reference: Broad maternal geographic origin of domestic sheep in Anatolia and the Zagros. Her C, Rezaei HR, Hughes S, Naderi S, Duffraisse M, Mashkour M, Naghash HR, Bălășescu A, Luikart G, Jordan S, Özüt D, Kence A, Bruford MW, Tresset A, Vigne JD, Taberlet P, Hänni C, Pompanon F. Animal genetics, May 3,2022.

Affiliated Structures and Partners