Sheep and goats share a number of similar genetic targets involved in domestication but exhibit different patterns of selection to achieve similar characteristics, according to a genomic analysis of their wild relatives, published online this week in Nature Communications.
Different domestic animals have been selectively bred for specific traits - such as tameness, rapid growth, or stamina. The wild ancestors of sheep and goats; the Asiatic mouflon (Ovis orientalis) and the Bezoar ibex (Capra aegagrus) respectively, were domesticated approximately 10,500 years ago in the Middle East - specifically in south-eastern Anatolia and the Zagros Mountains in Iran, providing a unique opportunity to explore the evidence for signatures of domestication.
Francois Pompanon and colleagues sequenced and analyzed the genomes of wild Asiatic mouflon and Bezoar ibex and compared their genomes with those of domestic sheep and goats. Out of the 90 identified genomic regions that showed signs of selection from wild to domestic populations, 20 are common to both the Asiatic mouflon and Bezoar Ibex, but have patterns of selection that vary between the species. This suggests that although there are common genetic targets for domestication, different solutions may have been used by goats and sheep to reach similar end points for certain characteristics.