, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 123-138,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 20 Oct 2006

The Origin and Genetic Status of Insular Caprines in the Eastern Mediterranean: A Case Study of Free-Ranging Goats (Capra aegagrus cretica) on Crete


The history and species status of free-ranging goats inhabiting the Eastern Mediterranean islands is discussed with reference to morphometric, archaeological and genetic findings. A case study on the free-ranging goats on Crete (Capra aegagrus cretica) is presented. The phenotype of the Cretan goat resembles that of the wild bezoar goat (C. aegagrus). However, the mitochondrial DNA of cytochrome b and d-loop sequences shows affinity with domestic goats. It has been suggested that the Cretan goat represents a feral animal that was introduced onto the island during the 6th millennium b.c. as a primitive domestic, and has retained the wild morphotype but has undergone significant genetic change. An alternative explanation, and the one that is proposed here, is that the goat was introduced onto the island in wild form and released as a food source. Subsequent introgressions with domestic animals, especially ewes, have influenced its genotype. These conclusions are applicable to other free-living goats and sheep which inhabit islands in the Eastern Mediterranean.