, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 117-127

Phylogeography and Origin of Sheep Breeds in Northern China

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With the establishment of modern sheep production systems in China, various forms of hybridization with Western breeds and between native breeds have been utilized for genetic improvement. At the same time, the progressive destruction or deterioration of sheep habitat has accompanied urbanization in China. Together these factors have accelerated the loss of genetic diversity, or even resulted in the extinction of some indigenous breeds. It is therefore important that efficient strategies for surveillance, evaluation, conservation and utilization of available genetic resources are developed for this species. In this study, a total of 30 microsatellite markers were used to assess genetic diversity for 12 native breeds and one Western sheep breed in Northern China. The high polymorphism information contents at the 30 markers, varying from averages of 0.519 to 0.666 for the 13 breeds, imply the retention of natural variation from source populations in the domestic breeds from different geographic regions in China. Analysis of genetic differentiation revealed substantial divergence among these breeds. Neutrality tests indicated that more than one third of the 30 loci were in departure from neutrality, implying that some evolutionary forces (e.g. selection and migration) had acted on these populations. Phylogenetic and phylogeographic analyses displayed a remarkable degree of consistency between geographic origins, breeding histories and the pattern of genetic differentiation.