Chessa, Bernardo and Pereira, Filipe and Arnaud, Frederick and Amorim, António and Goyache, Félix and Mainland, Ingrid and Kao, Rowland R. and Pemberton, Josephine M. and Beraldi, Dario and Stear, Michael J. and Alberti, Alberto and Pittau, Marco and Iannuzzi, Leopoldo and Banabazi, Mohammad H. and Kazwala, Rudovick R. and Zhang, Ya-ping and Arranz, Juan J. and Ali, Bahy A. and Wang, Zhiliang and Uzun, Metehan and Dione, Michel M. and Olsaker, Ingrid and Holm, Lars Erik and Saarma, Urmas and Ahmad, Sohail and Marzanov, Nurbiy and Eythorsdottir, Emma and Holland, Martin J. and Ajmone Marsan, Paolo and Bruford, Michael W. and Kantanen, Juha and Spencer, Thomas E. and Palmarini, Massimo (2009) Revealing the history of sheep domestication using retrovirus integrations. Science, Vol. 324 (5926), p. 532-536. eISSN 1095-9203. Article.
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The domestication of livestock represented a crucial step in human history. By using endogenous retroviruses as genetic markers, we found that sheep differentiated on the basis of their “retrotype” and morphological traits, dispersed across Eurasia and Africa via separate migratory episodes. Relicts of the first migrations include the Mouflon, as well as breeds previously recognized as “primitive” on the basis of their morphology, such as the Orkney, Soay and the Nordic short-tailed sheep now confined to the periphery of NW Europe. A later migratory episode, involving sheep with improved production traits, shaped the vast majority of present-day breeds. The ability to differentiate genetically primitive sheep from more modern breeds provides valuable insights into the history of sheep domestication.
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