Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

All kine today descended from a single herd

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It’s sort of surprising that all domesticated cattle in the world today are descended from a single herd of about 80 aurochs, but then all domesticated horses are descendents of a single stallion. (Horses run harems, and a stallion will protect his harem fiercely against other stallions, so a young stallion pretty much is forced from the herd and leads a lonely bachelor existence. Stallions are rambunctious and rebellious, but apparently one stallion decided that the prospect of having his own mares was worth his freedom, and so domestication began. But they never found another compliant stallion. (This is discussed in the fascinating book The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, by David Anthony—well worth reading.)

Here’s the story of the origin of kine, by Duncan Geere of Wired UK:

A genetic study of cattle has claimed that all modern domesticated bovines are descended from a single herd of wild ox, which lived 10,500 years ago.

A team of geneticists from the National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK excavated the bones of domestic cattle on archaeological sites in Iran, and then compared those to modern cows. They looked at how differences in DNA sequences could have arisen under different population history scenarios, modeled in computer simulations.

The team found that the differences that show up between the two populations could only have arisen if a relatively small number of animals — approximately 80 — had been domesticated from a now-extinct species of wild ox, known as aurochs, which roamed across Europe and Asia. Those cattle were then bred into the 1.4 billion cattle estimated by the UN to exist in mid-2011.

The process of collecting the data was tricky. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2012 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

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