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Long-term reciprocal gene flow in wild and domestic geese reveals complex domestication history

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Marja Heikkinen
  • Minna Ruokonen
  • Thomas White
  • Michelle Marie Alexander
  • Islam Gündüz
  • Keith M Dobney
  • Jouni Aspi
  • Jeremy Searle
  • Tanja Pyhäjärvi


Publication details

JournalG3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Jun 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 17 Jul 2020
Early online date17/07/20
Original languageEnglish


Hybridization has frequently been observed between wild and domestic species and can substantially impact genetic diversity of both counterparts. Geese show some of the highest levels of interspecific hybridization across all bird orders, and two of the goose species in the genus Anser have been domesticated providing an excellent opportunity for a joint study of domestication and hybridization. Until now, knowledge of the details of the goose domestication process has come from archaeological findings and historical writings supplemented with a few studies based on mitochondrial DNA. Here, we used genome-wide markers to make the first genome-based inference of the timing of European goose domestication. We also analyzed the impact of hybridization on the genome-wide genetic variation in current populations of the European domestic goose and its wild progenitor: the graylag goose (Anser anser). Our dataset consisted of 58 wild graylags sampled around Eurasia and 75 domestic geese representing 14 breeds genotyped for 33,527 single nucleotide polymorphisms. Demographic reconstruction and clustering analysis suggested that divergence between wild and domestic geese around 5,300 generations ago was followed by long-term genetic exchange, and that graylag populations have 3.2–58.0% admixture proportions with domestic geese, with distinct geographic patterns. Surprisingly, many modern European breeds share considerable (> 10%) ancestry with the Chinese domestic geese that is derived from the swan goose Anser cygnoid. We show that the domestication process can progress despite continued and pervasive gene flow from the wild form.

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