Mitochondrial genomes of extinct aurochs survive in domestic cattle

Alessandro Achilli, Anna Olivieri, Marco Pellecchia, Cristina Uboldi, Licia Colli, Nadia Al-Zahery, Matteo Accetturo, Maria Pala, Baharak Hooshiar Kashani, Ugo A. Perego, Vincenza Battaglia, Simona Fornarino, Javad Kalamati, Massoud Houshmand, Riccardo Negrini, Ornella Semino, Martin Richards, Vincent Macaulay, Luca Ferretti, Hans Jürgen BandeltPaolo Ajmone-Marsan, Antonio Torroni

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

207 Citations (Scopus)


Archaeological and genetic evidence suggest that modern cattle might result from two domestication events of aurochs (Bos primigenius) in southwest Asia, which gave rise to taurine (Bos taurus) and zebuine (Bos indicus) cattle, respectively [1-3]. However, independent domestication in Africa [4,5] and East Asia [6] has also been postulated and ancient DNA data raise the possibility of local introgression from wild aurochs [7-9]. Here, we show by sequencing entire mitochondrial genomes from modern cattle that extinct wild aurochsen from Europe occasionally transmitted their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to domesticated taurine breeds. However, the vast majority of mtDNAs belong either to haplogroup I (B. indicus) or T (B. taurus). The sequence divergence within haplogroup T is extremely low (eight-fold less than in the human mtDNA phylogeny [10]), indicating a narrow bottleneck in the recent evolutionary history of B. taurus. MtDNAs of haplotype T fall into subclades whose ages support a single Neolithic domestication event for B. taurus in the Near East, 9-11 thousand years ago (kya).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R157-R158
Number of pages2
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number4
Early online date25 Feb 2008
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2008
Externally publishedYes


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