Molecular analysis of wild and domestic sheep questions current nomenclature and provides evidence for domestication from two different subspecies

S. Hiendleder, B. Kaupe, R. Wassmuth, A. Janke

Abstract

Complete mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control regions (CR) were sequenced and analysed in order to investigate wild sheep taxonomy and the origin of domestic sheep (Ovis aries). The dataset for phylogenetic analyses includes 63 unique CR sequences from wild sheep of the mouflon (O. musimon, O. orientalis), urial (O. vignei), argali (O. ammon) and bighorn (O. canadensis) groups, and from domestic sheep of Asia, Europe and New Zealand. Domestic sheep occurred in two clearly separated branches with mouflon (O. musimon) mixed into one of the domestic sheep clusters. Genetic distances and molecular datings based on O. canadensis CR and mtDNA protein–coding sequences provide strong evidence for domestications from two mouflon subspecies. Other wild sheep sequences are in two additional well–separated branches. Ovis ammon collium and O. ammon nigrimontana are joined with a specimen from the transkaspian Ust–Urt plateau currently named O. vignei arkal. Ovis ammon ammon, O. ammon darwini and O. vignei bochariensis represent a separate clade and the earliest divergence from the mouflon group. Therefore, O. musimon, O. vignei bochariensis and Ust–Urt sheep are not members of a ‘moufloniform’ or O. orientalis species, but belong to different clades. Furthermore, Ust–Urt sheep could be a hybrid population or an O. ammon subspecies closely related to O. ammon nigrimontana.