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Revealing the History of Sheep Domestication Using Retrovirus Integrations

By Bernardo Chessa, Filipe Pereira, Frederick Arnaud, Antonio Amorim, Felix Goyache, Ingrid Mainland

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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 northwest Europe. A later migratory episode, involving sheep with improved production traits, shaped the great 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.


Katie Carroll

Date 2009
Publication Title Science
Volume 324
Issue 5926
Pages 5
Publisher Gobierno Del Principado De Asturias
Language Spanish
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animals in culture
  3. Domestication
  4. Farm animals
  5. Food animals
  6. History
  7. Livestock
  8. Mammals
  9. Sheep
  10. Virus diseases