Scientists create "family tree" for cows that goes back 29 million years

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Washington, October 20 (ANI): Pairing a new approach to prepare ancient DNA with a new scientific technique developed specifically to genotype a cow, an international team of scientists has created a very accurate and widespread "family tree" for cows and other ruminants, going back as far as 29 million years.

This genetic information could allow scientists to understand the evolution of cattle, ruminants and other animals.

This same technique also could be used to verify ancient relatives to humans, help farmers develop healthier and more efficient cattle, and assist scientists who are studying human diseases, according to the research.

"We studied 678 different animals, representing 61 different species, and using the new Illumina cow 'SNP chip,' or 'snip chip,' we were able to generate some very precise genetic data for which the chip was not designed," said Jerry Taylor, a professor of animal science in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resource and lead author of the study.

"Our SNP chips allow scientists to examine hundreds of thousands of points on an animal's genome simultaneously. When we applied this technique to 48 recognized breeds of cattle, we were able to construct a family tree and infer the history of cattle domestication and breed formation across the globe," he added.

The research revealed the history of European cattle, with domesticated cattle moving sequentially through Turkey, the Balkans and Italy, then spreading through Central Europe and France, and ending in Britain.

The scientists also found evidence supporting a second route of ancient cattle into Europe by way of the Iberian Peninsula.

The applications for this technology and information discovered in the research could help solve a number of problems and answer questions about evolution, including how humans are related to extinct hominids and how different plant species are related to each other, according to Taylor.

Based on the findings, animal scientists can begin to study evolution of certain breeds.

According to Taylor, "We're all interested in reconstructing our ancestry. This is essentially the same thing, except that we're able to zoom out by millions of years and include relatives who are long gone."

"The amazing thing about this technique is that it is very fast and extremely cheap. For relatively small amounts of money, we can generate the data that will allow us to recreate millions of years of evolutionary history," he said. (ANI)

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