Capturing goats: documenting two hundred years of mitochondrial DNA diversity among goat populations from Britain and Ireland

Biol Lett. 2017 Mar;13(3):20160876. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2016.0876.


The domestic goat (Capra hircus) plays a key role in global agriculture, being especially prized in regions of marginal pasture. However, the advent of industrialized breeding has seen a dramatic reduction in genetic diversity within commercial populations, while high extinction rates among feral herds have further depleted the reservoir of genetic variation available. Here, we present the first survey of whole mitochondrial genomic variation among the modern and historical goat populations of Britain and Ireland using a combination of mtDNA enrichment and high throughput sequencing. Fifteen historical taxidermy samples, representing the indigenous 'Old Goat' populations of the islands, were sequenced alongside five modern Irish dairy goats and four feral samples from endangered populations in western Ireland. Phylogenetic and network analyses of European mitochondrial variation revealed distinct groupings dominated by historical British and Irish samples, which demonstrate a degree of maternal genetic structure between the goats of insular and continental Europe. Several Irish modern feral samples also fall within these clusters, suggesting continuity between these dwindling populations and the ancestral 'Old Goats' of Ireland and Britain.

Keywords: Capra hircus; conservation; mtDNA Capture; next generation sequencing; taxidermy samples.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / history*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Genome, Mitochondrial*
  • Goats / genetics*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Ireland
  • Phylogeny
  • United Kingdom


  • DNA, Mitochondrial

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3693208
  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.g9v24