Friday, February 23, 2018

Ancient DNA upends the horse family tree - Full Article

By Elizabeth Pennisi
Feb. 22, 2018

Horses radically changed human history, revolutionizing how people traveled, farmed, and even made war. Yet every time we think we’ve answered the question of where these animals came from, another study brings us back to square one. Such is the case with an extensive new study of ancient horse DNA, which largely disproves the current theory: that modern horses arose more than 5000 years ago in Kazakhstan. Instead, the new work suggests that modern-day domestic horses come from an as-yet-undiscovered stock. The research also shows that the world’s only remaining wild horses, called Przewalski’s horses, are not truly wild.

“This paper radically changes our thinking about the origin of modern horses,” says Molly McCue, a veterinarian and equine geneticist at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul, who was not involved with the work. “It’s an exciting and surprising finding.”

Until now, many researchers had thought that the Botai culture, an ancient group of hunters and herders that relied on horses for food and possibly transport in what today is northern Kazakhstan, first harnessed horses 5500 years ago...

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