Multiple maternal origins and weak phylogeographic structure in domestic goats

Gordon Luikart, Ludovic Gielly, Laurent Excoffier, Jean Denis Vigne, Jean Bouvet, Pierre Taberlet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

391 Scopus citations


Domestic animals have played a key role in human history. Despite their importance, however, the origins of most domestic species remain poorly understood. We assessed the phylogenetic history and population structure of domestic goats by sequencing a hypervariable segment (481 bp) of the mtDNA control region from 406 goats representing 88 breeds distributed across the Old World. Phylogeographic analysis revealed three highly divergent goat lineages (estimated divergence >200,000 years ago), with one lineage occurring only in eastern and southern Asia. A remarkably similar pattern exists in cattle, sheep, and pigs. These results, combined with recent archaeological findings, suggest that goats and other farm animals have multiple maternal origins with a possible center of origin in Asia, as well as in the Fertile Crescent. The pattern of goat mtDNA diversity suggests that all three lineages have undergone population expansions, but that the expansion was relatively recent for two of the lineages (including the Asian lineage). Goat populations are surprisingly less genetically structured than cattle populations. In goats only ≈10% of the mtDNA variation is partitioned among continents. In cattle the amount is ≥50%. This weak structuring suggests extensive intercontinental transportation of goats and has intriguing implications about the importance of goats in historical human migrations and commerce.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5927-5932
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 8 2001


  • Animal domestication
  • Capra taxonomy and evolution
  • Conservation genetics
  • Mitochondrial DNA


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiple maternal origins and weak phylogeographic structure in domestic goats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this