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Ancient DNA provides new insight into the maternal lineages and domestication of Chinese donkeys.

Han L, Zhu S, Ning C, Cai D, Wang K, Chen Q, Hu S, Yang J, Shao J, Zhu H, Zhou H - BMC Evol. Biol. (2014)

Bottom Line: One sample that dates to about 20,000 years before present failed to amplify.These results indicate that the maternal origin of Chinese domestic donkeys was probably related to the African wild ass, which includes the Nubian wild ass (Equus africanus africanus) and the Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis).Combined with historical records, the results of this study implied that domestic donkeys spread into west and north China before the emergence of the Han dynasty.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Key-Lab for Evolution of Past Life and Environment in Northeast Asia, Jilin University, Ministry of Education, Changchun, 130012, PR China. luhan@jlu.edu.cn.

ABSTRACT

Background: The donkey (Equus asinus) is an important domestic animal that provides a reliable source of protein and method of transportation for many human populations. However, the process of domestication and the dispersal routes of the Chinese donkey are still unclear, as donkey remains are sparse in the archaeological record and often confused with horse remains. To explore the maternal origins and dispersal route of Chinese donkeys, both mitochondrial DNA D-loop and cytochrome b gene fragments of 21 suspected donkey remains from four archaeological sites in China were amplified and sequenced.

Results: Molecular methods of species identification show that 17 specimens were donkeys and three samples had the maternal genetic signature of horses. One sample that dates to about 20,000 years before present failed to amplify. In this study, the phylogenetic analysis reveals that ancient Chinese donkeys have high mitochondrial DNA diversity and two distinct mitochondrial maternal lineages, known as the Somali and Nubian lineages. These results indicate that the maternal origin of Chinese domestic donkeys was probably related to the African wild ass, which includes the Nubian wild ass (Equus africanus africanus) and the Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis). Combined with historical records, the results of this study implied that domestic donkeys spread into west and north China before the emergence of the Han dynasty. The number of Chinese domestic donkeys had increased primarily to meet demand for the expansion of trade, and they were likely used as commodities or for shipping goods along the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty, when the Silk Road reached its golden age.

Conclusions: This study is the first to provide valuable ancient animal DNA evidence for early trade between African and Asian populations. The ancient DNA analysis of Chinese donkeys also sheds light on the dynamic process of the maternal origin, domestication, and dispersal route of ancient Chinese donkeys.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Neighbor joining tree constructed from the mtDNA D-loop sequences of the ancient Chinese donkeys and horses. The GenBank sequence X97337 was included as a reference sequence in the tree. Five African wild ass sequences were also added, including two Nubian wild asses (E. a. africanus) (HM622632 and HM622636), and three Somali wild asses (E. a. somaliensis) (HM622661, HM622663, and HM622669). The six Asiatic wild ass sequences were AF220932-AF220937, of which AF220932 and AF220933 belong to the species E. kiang, AF220934-AF220936 belong to the species E. hemionus kulan, and AF220937 belongs to the species E. hemionus onager.
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Fig1: Neighbor joining tree constructed from the mtDNA D-loop sequences of the ancient Chinese donkeys and horses. The GenBank sequence X97337 was included as a reference sequence in the tree. Five African wild ass sequences were also added, including two Nubian wild asses (E. a. africanus) (HM622632 and HM622636), and three Somali wild asses (E. a. somaliensis) (HM622661, HM622663, and HM622669). The six Asiatic wild ass sequences were AF220932-AF220937, of which AF220932 and AF220933 belong to the species E. kiang, AF220934-AF220936 belong to the species E. hemionus kulan, and AF220937 belongs to the species E. hemionus onager.

Mentions: The neighbor-joining tree was constructed using the 20 mtDNA D-loop sequences from the ancient samples (KM234980-KM234999), five African wild ass sequences (HM622661-622663, HM622636, and HM622669) [24], and six Asiatic wild ass sequences (AF220932-AF220937) [26]. It clearly shows that the domestic donkeys were divided into two distinct mtDNA haplogroups, Clade 1 and Clade 2 (Figure 1). Seven samples, including L1, L5, L14, L15, L16, L18, and L19, clustered in Clade 1, also called the Nubian lineage, while ten samples, including L2-L4, L6, L9, L12-L13, L17, and L20-L21, clustered in Clade 2, known as the Somali lineage. Three samples—L7, L8, and L11—were horses that grouped together as an outgroup to the donkeys in the phylogenetic tree. The results show that the African wild ass was the probable progenitor for ancient Chinese donkeys. These results support previous studies on the origins of the domestic donkey [6,9].Figure 1


Ancient DNA provides new insight into the maternal lineages and domestication of Chinese donkeys.

Han L, Zhu S, Ning C, Cai D, Wang K, Chen Q, Hu S, Yang J, Shao J, Zhu H, Zhou H - BMC Evol. Biol. (2014)

Neighbor joining tree constructed from the mtDNA D-loop sequences of the ancient Chinese donkeys and horses. The GenBank sequence X97337 was included as a reference sequence in the tree. Five African wild ass sequences were also added, including two Nubian wild asses (E. a. africanus) (HM622632 and HM622636), and three Somali wild asses (E. a. somaliensis) (HM622661, HM622663, and HM622669). The six Asiatic wild ass sequences were AF220932-AF220937, of which AF220932 and AF220933 belong to the species E. kiang, AF220934-AF220936 belong to the species E. hemionus kulan, and AF220937 belongs to the species E. hemionus onager.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4263014&req=5

Fig1: Neighbor joining tree constructed from the mtDNA D-loop sequences of the ancient Chinese donkeys and horses. The GenBank sequence X97337 was included as a reference sequence in the tree. Five African wild ass sequences were also added, including two Nubian wild asses (E. a. africanus) (HM622632 and HM622636), and three Somali wild asses (E. a. somaliensis) (HM622661, HM622663, and HM622669). The six Asiatic wild ass sequences were AF220932-AF220937, of which AF220932 and AF220933 belong to the species E. kiang, AF220934-AF220936 belong to the species E. hemionus kulan, and AF220937 belongs to the species E. hemionus onager.
Mentions: The neighbor-joining tree was constructed using the 20 mtDNA D-loop sequences from the ancient samples (KM234980-KM234999), five African wild ass sequences (HM622661-622663, HM622636, and HM622669) [24], and six Asiatic wild ass sequences (AF220932-AF220937) [26]. It clearly shows that the domestic donkeys were divided into two distinct mtDNA haplogroups, Clade 1 and Clade 2 (Figure 1). Seven samples, including L1, L5, L14, L15, L16, L18, and L19, clustered in Clade 1, also called the Nubian lineage, while ten samples, including L2-L4, L6, L9, L12-L13, L17, and L20-L21, clustered in Clade 2, known as the Somali lineage. Three samples—L7, L8, and L11—were horses that grouped together as an outgroup to the donkeys in the phylogenetic tree. The results show that the African wild ass was the probable progenitor for ancient Chinese donkeys. These results support previous studies on the origins of the domestic donkey [6,9].Figure 1

Bottom Line: One sample that dates to about 20,000 years before present failed to amplify.These results indicate that the maternal origin of Chinese domestic donkeys was probably related to the African wild ass, which includes the Nubian wild ass (Equus africanus africanus) and the Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis).Combined with historical records, the results of this study implied that domestic donkeys spread into west and north China before the emergence of the Han dynasty.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Key-Lab for Evolution of Past Life and Environment in Northeast Asia, Jilin University, Ministry of Education, Changchun, 130012, PR China. luhan@jlu.edu.cn.

ABSTRACT

Background: The donkey (Equus asinus) is an important domestic animal that provides a reliable source of protein and method of transportation for many human populations. However, the process of domestication and the dispersal routes of the Chinese donkey are still unclear, as donkey remains are sparse in the archaeological record and often confused with horse remains. To explore the maternal origins and dispersal route of Chinese donkeys, both mitochondrial DNA D-loop and cytochrome b gene fragments of 21 suspected donkey remains from four archaeological sites in China were amplified and sequenced.

Results: Molecular methods of species identification show that 17 specimens were donkeys and three samples had the maternal genetic signature of horses. One sample that dates to about 20,000 years before present failed to amplify. In this study, the phylogenetic analysis reveals that ancient Chinese donkeys have high mitochondrial DNA diversity and two distinct mitochondrial maternal lineages, known as the Somali and Nubian lineages. These results indicate that the maternal origin of Chinese domestic donkeys was probably related to the African wild ass, which includes the Nubian wild ass (Equus africanus africanus) and the Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis). Combined with historical records, the results of this study implied that domestic donkeys spread into west and north China before the emergence of the Han dynasty. The number of Chinese domestic donkeys had increased primarily to meet demand for the expansion of trade, and they were likely used as commodities or for shipping goods along the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty, when the Silk Road reached its golden age.

Conclusions: This study is the first to provide valuable ancient animal DNA evidence for early trade between African and Asian populations. The ancient DNA analysis of Chinese donkeys also sheds light on the dynamic process of the maternal origin, domestication, and dispersal route of ancient Chinese donkeys.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus