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Zebu Cattle Are an Exclusive Legacy of the South Asia Neolithic

Shanyuan Chen et al. Mol Biol Evol. .


Animal domestication was a major step forward in human prehistory, contributing to the emergence of more complex societies. At the time of the Neolithic transition, zebu cattle (Bos indicus) were probably the most abundant and important domestic livestock species in Southern Asia. Although archaeological evidence points toward the domestication of zebu cattle within the Indian subcontinent, the exact geographic origins and phylogenetic history of zebu cattle remains uncertain. Here, we report evidence from 844 zebu mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences surveyed from 19 Asiatic countries comprising 8 regional groups, which identify 2 distinct mitochondrial haplogroups, termed I1 and I2. The marked increase in nucleotide diversity (P < 0.001) for both the I1 and I2 haplogroups within the northern part of the Indian subcontinent is consistent with an origin for all domestic zebu in this area. For haplogroup I1, genetic diversity was highest within the Indus Valley among the three hypothesized domestication centers (Indus Valley, Ganges, and South India). These data support the Indus Valley as the most likely center of origin for the I1 haplogroup and a primary center of zebu domestication. However, for the I2 haplogroup, a complex pattern of diversity is detected, preventing the unambiguous pinpointing of the exact place of origin for this zebu maternal lineage. Our findings are discussed with respect to the archaeological record for zebu domestication within the Indian subcontinent.

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