Genomic Analysis Shows Genetic Diversity and Evolution in Local Cattle

Greg Howard
6th June, 2024

Genomic Analysis Shows Genetic Diversity and Evolution in Local Cattle

Image Source: Rachel Claire (photographer)

Key Findings

  • The study analyzed the genomes of 49 modern cattle breeds and eight ancient East Asian samples to understand cattle genetic diversity
  • Researchers identified five continental cattle groups based on genetic markers, with East Asian cattle showing three distinct ancestries
  • Historic genetic mixing helped southern Chinese and Tibetan Plateau cattle adapt to their environments, gaining traits like heat tolerance and disease resistance
The domestication and development of cattle have played a crucial role in shaping human societies, providing essential resources such as meat, milk, and labor. However, the genetic histories of cattle breeds, particularly in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, have remained poorly understood. A recent study conducted by researchers at Northwest A&F University aims to shed light on the genetic diversity and evolutionary history of cattle, with a particular focus on East Asian breeds[1]. The study analyzed the genomes of 49 modern cattle breeds and eight ancient East Asian samples. The researchers found that worldwide cattle could be classified into five continental groups based on Y-chromosome haplotypes and autosomal variants. Notably, East Asian cattle populations were found to be composed of three distinct ancestries: an earlier East Asian taurine ancestry that arrived in China at least 3,900 years ago, a later introduced Eurasian taurine ancestry, and a novel Chinese indicine ancestry that diverged from Indian indicine approximately 36,600 to 49,600 years ago. These findings build on previous research that has explored the genetic diversity and population structure of cattle breeds across different regions. For instance, an earlier study examining the genotypes of 1,543 animals from 134 domesticated bovid breeds across the world identified three major groups: Asian indicine, Eurasian taurine, and African taurine[2]. This study also highlighted the patterns of geographic dispersal and hybridization resulting from human migration and cattle trading. The recent study by Northwest A&F University also reported historic introgression events that have helped domestic cattle from southern China and the Tibetan Plateau adapt rapidly to their environments. Specifically, the researchers found that southern Chinese cattle acquired approximately 2.93% of their genomes from banteng (a wild cattle species) and Tibetan Plateau cattle acquired about 1.22% of their genomes from yak. This introgression likely provided genetic advantages for adaptation to specific environmental challenges, such as heat tolerance and immune response. These findings are consistent with previous research that has documented the adaptive genetic changes in indicine cattle following their dispersal into East Asia from the Indian subcontinent. A study that sequenced the genomes of 354 indicine cattle from 57 breeds worldwide revealed that their migration into East Asia likely followed a coastal route and involved introgression from other bovine species, such as banteng and gaur[3]. This introgression contributed to the rapid adaptation of indicine cattle to hot and humid environments in East Asia. The methods used in the recent study involved high-quality whole-genome sequencing and comparative analysis of genetic variants. By examining both modern and ancient cattle genomes, the researchers were able to trace the evolutionary history and migration patterns of cattle in East Asia. This comprehensive approach allowed them to identify distinct ancestries and introgression events that have shaped the genetic diversity of East Asian cattle populations. In summary, the study conducted by Northwest A&F University provides new insights into the evolutionary history and genetic diversity of East Asian cattle. By identifying distinct ancestries and historic introgression events, the researchers have highlighted the importance of genetic adaptation in response to environmental challenges. These findings build on previous research and contribute to our understanding of how cattle have evolved and adapted to different regions and climates over thousands of years.

BiotechGeneticsAnimal Science


Main Study

1) Whole-genome sequencing reveals genomic diversity and selection signatures in Xia’nan cattle

Published 5th June, 2024

Related Studies

2) Worldwide patterns of ancestry, divergence, and admixture in domesticated cattle.

3) Global genetic diversity, introgression, and evolutionary adaptation of indicine cattle revealed by whole genome sequencing.

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