Genetic diversity and matrilineal genetic origin of fat-rumped sheep in Ethiopia

  • Helen NigussieEmail author
  • Joram M. Mwacharo
  • Sarah Osama
  • Morris Agaba
  • Yoseph Mekasha
  • Kefelegn Kebede
  • Solomon Abegaz
  • Sanjoy Kumar Pal
Regular Articles


Ethiopia is home to a diverse gene pool of indigenous sheep populations. Therefore, a better understanding of genetic variation holds the key to future utilization through conservation. Three of these breeds, Afar, Blackhead Somali, and Hararghe Highland, are found in eastern Ethiopia where they contribute significantly to the livelihood of most pastoralist, agro-pastoralist, and smallholder farmers. These indigenous sheep are recognized on the basis of morphotype and their genetic distinction remains unknown. Here, to assess genetic variation, and matrilineal genetic origin and relationship of fat-rumed sheep found in eastern Ethiopia, 300 individuals from the three breeds were genotyped for 22 microsatellite markers and sequenced for the mitochondrial DNA displacement loop (mtDNA d-loop) region. The overall HO and HE were 0.57 and 0.75, respectively. Differentiation statistics revealed that a high proportion (97%) of the total genetic variation was explained by differences between individuals within populations. Genotype assignment independent of the population of origin showed K = 2 to be the optimum number of genetic backgrounds present in the dataset. This result was further confirmed by mtDNA D-loop sequences comparison in which the matrilineal genetic origin of eastern Ethiopia sheep is from two haplotype groups (types A and B) among the five haplotypes globally observed. Taken together, our findings suggest that the sheep populations from three breeds originated from two ancestral genetic backgrounds that may have diverged prior to their introduction to Ethiopia. However, to obtain a complete picture of the evolutionary dynamics of Ethiopian indigenous sheep, more samples and populations from within and outside of the country will need to be analyzed.


Microsatellites mtDNA D-loop sequence Ovis aries 



We would like to thank Haramaya University and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) cooperation for funding blood sample collection and BecA-ILRI Hub through the African Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) Program for laboratory work. The ABCF Program is funded by the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through the BecA-CSIRO partnership, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

Permission was obtained from the department head of the Animal and Range Sciences to carry out the present work. Standard protocol for animal care and welfare was employed during sample collection.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11250_2019_1827_MOESM1_ESM.docx (873 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 872 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Microbial, Cellular and Molecular BiologyAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) c/o ILRIAddis AbabaEthiopia
  3. 3.Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA-ILRI)International Livestock Research InstituteNairobiKenya
  4. 4.The Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST)ArushaTanzania
  5. 5.The Agricultural Transformation AgencyAddis AbabaEthiopia
  6. 6.Institute of Agricultural Sciences in the Tropics, Department of Animal Breeding and Husbandry in the tropics and Sub tropics- 490hUniversity of Hohenheim GarrbenstrStuttgartGermany
  7. 7.Ethiopian Institutes of Agricultural ResearchDebre ZeitEthiopia
  8. 8.School of Pharmaceutical & Allied Medical Sciences, School of Natural SciencesCT UniversityJagraon LudhianaIndia

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