Ancient DNA provides new insights into the origin of the Chinese domestic horse

Dawei Cai, Zhuowei Tang, Lu Han, Camilla F. Speller, Dongya Y. Yang, Xiaolin Ma, Jian'en Cao, Hong Zhu, Hui Zhou

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Domestic horses played a pivotal role in ancient China, but their exact origin remains controversial. To investigate the origin of Chinese domestic horses, we analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 35 horse remains, aged between 4000 and 2000 years, excavated from nine archaeological sites in northern China. The Chinese ancient horses exhibited high matrilineal diversity, falling into all the seven haplogroups (A-G) observed in modern horses. These results Suggest that several maternal lines were introduced into the gene pool of Chinese horses in the past. Haplogroups A and F were more prevalent in ancient horses than the other haplogroups, Interestingly, only haplogroups A and F were present in the samples older than 4000 years, while the more recent horses (between 2000 and 3000 years BP) fell into all seven haplogroups. Comparison with DNA data Of present-day horses Suggests that haplogroup F is like to be an ancient haplogroup of East Asian origin. These analyses also Suggest that the origin of Chinese domestic horses is complex, and external mtDNA input occurred after initial domestication. Our results indicate that the Chinese ancient horses are more related to the modern Mongolian horses. Lastly, our results cannot Support the previous hypothesis that early Chinese domestic horses were derived from the Przewalski horse. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)835-842
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of archaeological science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009

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