Researchers finally identify the origins of the modern domestic horse

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A groundbreaking study identified the steppes of western Eurasia, which today form part of southern Russia, as the cradle of equine civilization.

Farmer catching horses in north-central Kazakhstan.

A team of more than 160 scientists from disciplines ranging from archeology to linguistics was led by paleogeneticist Ludovic Orlando of the French National Center for Scientific Research with the aim of settling the long-standing debate about the origin of horses. domesticated (Equus caballus).

“Modern domesticated breeds do not descend from the first line of domestic horses associated with archaeological evidence of bridling, milking and corraling in Botai, Central Asia around 3500 BC,” the researchers write in the article published in the October 20 edition of the newspaper. Nature. The horses in this region are the ancestors of today’s Przewalski horses, an endangered species only found in Mongolia.

The steppes of Russia have long been an area of ​​interest for researchers studying the origins of Equus caballus, but so far there was a lack of corroborating evidence. Meanwhile, other possible geographic candidates, the Iberian Peninsula and Anatolia, have been contested by the archaeological research community.

For their study, the team used ancient DNA collected from preserved skeletal remains to build the genomes of 273 horses that lived between 50,000 years ago and 200 BC. When these genomes were compared with those of modern horses, the data revealed that modern domestic horses are descended from horses living in the western Eurasian steppes, particularly in an area near the Volga and Don rivers. Further analysis of these genomes revealed that these horses quickly spread to Western Europe.

“Modern domestic horses eventually replaced almost all other local populations as they developed rapidly across Eurasia from around 2000 BC.

The migration “happened almost overnight,” Orlando told National Geographic Magazine. “It’s not something that’s been built over thousands of years.”

As they expanded they replaced all the previous bloodlines that roamed around Eurasia, ”he continued,“… and the other guys [of horses living at the time] are sort of the losers.

Interestingly, the data also suggests that these horses were most likely bred by humans for their docile demeanor and ability to carry a rider. The authors write: “Early selection combined with GSDMC and ZFPM1 suggests moving use to horses that are more docile, more resistant to stress and involved in new locomotor exercises, including endurance racing, weight-bearing and / or warfare. “

You can read the full article by clicking here.


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