Monday, June 1, 2015

Ancient European Cattle Genomes (Scheu et al - Paper)

This is an important study of ancient domestic cattle by Scheu et al.  There's quite a few Taurine genomes here, and importantly, several from Iran, Syria and Turkey.

The paper is linked below, but you can also get some spreadsheets in the supplementary for actual sites and dates.  [here]

The most distant relationships are between those of Central Europe and Iran, the latter being in the vicinity of where domestication may have occurred.  The CE group includes the Early Neolithic Viesenhäuser Hof, Stuttgart at around 5,200 B.C. and Middle Neolithic Chasséen Culture from France.

The Cardial and Epi-Cardial cattle from France and Spain may be the product of early Cardial island-hopping from Anatolia.  The Western Cardial and Linerbandkeramik cattle are the most distant from the domestication event in time and space, and for haplotypes, the least diverse.

From the paper:

"The oldest (Neolithic) groups with the greatest geographical distance from each other, namely Iran and Central/Western Europe and Southern France, show the highest FST values (0.47 and 0.4, respectively). Smaller genetic distances are observed between more adjacent areas, such as between Iran and Western Anatolia and between Iran and Southeastern Europe (0.11 and 0.17, respectively)."

"Neolithic cattle from Iran yield the highest value for haplotype diversity in the whole
dataset (0.96). Haplotype diversity consistently decreases along the proposed two main Neolithisation routes, with the lowest values in remote areas, i.e. in Neolithic Central/
Western Europe and Southern France (0.22 and 0.00, respectively), while intermediate values are observed in between."

"The genetic distance between Southeastern Europe (6,200-5,500 BCE) and Central/Western Europe (5,400-4,400 BCE) is unexpectedly high (0.27)."


"The pattern of decreasing diversity in the direction of the Neolithic expansion and the correlation of genetic and geographical distances is considerably weaker in modern-day cattle breeds than in the Neolithic.  It is not clear yet to which extent human migrations
from the East as postulated for the Bronze Age [61] influenced the already existing cattle stock in Europe."
The last point made by the authors is critical.  This study only covers Neolithic longhorn cattle, bos taurus primagenus, at least in parts of Europe and the Near East.  In the Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic of Western Europe there is a major change in the morphology of cattle in many places that may contribute substantially to the genetics of modern Atlantic herds. 
Pizza slice to punchbowl:

They found no evidence of maternal auroch introgression into Southern Italian breeds based on mitochondrial haplotypes.   Well, for one thing, it's there... Maybe not yet, maybe not visible by haplotypes, but I'd bet cold cash that it happened.  That will also be true for the exceedingly ugly Highland and Norwegian breeds and the stumpy auroch that inhabited those lands.

Uni-parental markers might tell you a few things in some populations, but in heavily domesticated and back-bred cattle it tells you jack-squat about population dynamics, especially bottlenecks. [see here]  At least this study is of ancient autosomal dna, so it's a good day.

So now that we have Middle Pleistocene genomes of fruit bats and iguanas, can we get a few Bell Beakers?!

The genetic prehistory of domesticated cattle from their origin to the spread across Europe

Amelie Scheu12*, Adam Powell1, Ruth Bollongino13, Jean-Denis Vigne3, Anne Tresset3, Canan Çakırlar4, Norbert Benecke2 and Joachim Burger1
BMC Genetics 2015, 16:54  doi:10.1186/s12863-015-0203-2
The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I would have expected Spain in that time period to cluster with Western Europe.

  3. I would have expected Spain in that time period to cluster with Western Europe.

    1. I'm kind of shooting from the hip, I'd guess that the Epi-Cardial cattle are mostly descended from herds in the Northern Basin going back to Thessaly and Anatolia, but they have some introgression from LBK herds making them appear more distant than they are.

  4. How about comparative genomic analysis of the Congo Floor Maggot and its closest kin, the bird's nest maggot (parasitical blowflies), to see when our human ancestors (who were the CFM vector) switched from subcanopy bowl nests (woven by all (and only) great apes) to dome huts woven on the rainforest ground by Homo species, (resulting in the much later bell beaker folk!)?