Science China Life Sciences

, Volume 55, Issue 6, pp 483–496 | Cite as

Phylogeny and evolutionary history of the silkworm

  • Wei Sun
  • HongSong Yu
  • YiHong Shen
  • Yutaka Banno
  • ZhongHuai Xiang
  • Ze ZhangEmail author
Open Access
Research Paper


The silkworm, Bombyx mori, played an important role in the old Silk Road that connected ancient Asia and Europe. However, to date, there have been few studies of the origins and domestication of this species using molecular methods. In this study, DNA sequences of mitochondrial and nuclear loci were used to infer the phylogeny and evolutionary history of the domesticated silkworm and its relatives. All of the phylogenetic analyses indicated a close relationship between the domesticated silkworm and the Chinese wild silkworm. Domestication was estimated to have occurred about 4100 years ago (ya), and the radiation of the different geographic strains of B. mori about 2000 ya. The Chinese wild silkworm and the Japanese wild silkworm split about 23600 ya. These estimates are in good agreement with the fossil evidence and historical records. In addition, we show that the domesticated silkworm experienced a population expansion around 1000 ya. The divergence times and the population dynamics of silkworms presented in this study will be useful for studies of lepidopteran phylogenetics, in the genetic analysis of domestic animals, and for understanding the spread of human civilizations.


silkworm domestication divergence time population dynamic population expansion 

Supplementary material

11427_2012_4334_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (429 kb)
Supplementary material, approximately 429 KB.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2012

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wei Sun
    • 1
  • HongSong Yu
    • 1
  • YiHong Shen
    • 1
  • Yutaka Banno
    • 2
  • ZhongHuai Xiang
    • 1
  • Ze Zhang
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of Sericulture and Systems BiologySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Genetic Resources, Graduate School of Bioresource and Bioenvironmental SciencesKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan
  3. 3.Institute of Agricultural and Life SciencesChongqing UniversityChongqingChina

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