Archaeozoological evidence indicates that sheep were first domesticated in the Fertile Crescent. To search for DNA sequence diversity arising from previously undetected domestication events, this survey examined nine breeds of sheep from modern-day Turkey and Israel. A total of 2027 bp of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence from 197 sheep revealed a total of 85 haplotypes and a high level of genetic diversity. Six individuals carried three haplotypes, which clustered separately from the known ovine mtDNA lineages A, B, and C. Analysis of genetic distance, mismatch distribution, and comparisons with wild sheep confirmed that these represent two additional mtDNA lineages denoted D and E. The two haplogroup E sequences were found to link the previously identified groups A and C. The single haplogroup D sequence branched with the eastern mouflon (Ovis orientalis), urial (O. vignei), and argali (O. ammon) sheep. High sequence diversity (K = 1.86%, haplogroup D and O. orientalis) indicates that the wild progenitor of this domestic lineage remains unresolved. The identification in this study of evidence for additional domestication events adds to the emerging view that sheep were recruited from wild populations multiple times in the same way as for other livestock species such as goat, cattle, and pig.


  • Sequence data from this article have been deposited with the EMBL/GenBank Data Libraries under accession nos. DQ851886DQ8552279.

  • Communicating editor: C. Haley

  • Received November 15, 2006.
  • Accepted December 21, 2006.
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