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Comparative genetic analysis of subfossil wild horses (from the Neolithic Age and Early Bronze Age) and present-day domestic horses from Bulgaria

Gyulnas Dzhebir; Georgi Yordanov; Iskra Yankova; Daniela Sirakova; Maria Petrova; Boyko Neov; Peter Hristov; Georgi Radoslavov; Latinka Hristova; Nikolai Spassov

9 March 2018 · volume 25 · pp. 3–10 · PDF [full text]

Abstract: This study presents the first data on the genetic diversity of Holocene wild horses of the subgenus Equus (Equus) from the period before domestication (Early Neolithic and Early Bronze Age) in Bulgaria, and with this the first data on the genetic diversity of the extinct Holocene wild horses of the subgenus in Europe. The results show the presence of the Q (in Equus germanicus from the Early Neolithic of NW Bulgaria) and G (G1) (in E. ferus from the E. Neolithic and the E. Bronze Age of Bulgaria) haplogroups. So far both haplogroups have been spread with high frequency in the Middle Asian horse breeds. This preliminary result gives ground to support the polyphyletic hypothesis for the origin of the domestic horse. All these data are interpreted in terms of the contemporary view of horse domestication and dissemination in Eurasia during the Holocene. Our results, though preliminary, can provide interesting information about the wild ancestors and the origin of domestic horses. The obtained data would contribute also to elucidating the origin and migration processes in the formation of local horse breeds. This information is directly related to the understanding of migration and the cultural-historical processes in our region. The methodology includes: isolation of ancient DNA from bones, amplification of fragments of mitochondrial DNA, sequencing and genetic analysis. Comparative analysis of modern breeds of horses from mountainous and flat geographic regions in Bulgaria has been performed. We found a high degree of genetic diversity and differences between mountain and planar equine populations. The established genetic profile of subfossil wild horse (E. ferus — the Tarpan) is the closest to the profile of the Danube horse, where the frequency of the haplogroup G is about 50%.

Keywords: D-loop region, ancient DNA, wild horses DNA, population horse breed structure

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