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Genomes Reveal Story of Donkey Domestication

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

TOULOUSE, FRANCE—According to a Science News report, donkeys (Equus asinus) were domesticated some 7,000 years ago in East Africa, based upon an analysis conducted by molecular archaeologist Ludovic Orlando of the Center for Anthropobiology and Genomics of Toulouse and his colleagues. The genomes in the study sample came from donkeys living in 31 countries today, and DNA from 31 donkeys who lived between 100 and 4,000 years ago. These genomes were then compared with the genomes of living wild asses from Asia and Africa. The study suggests that all domesticated donkeys can be traced back to a single domestication event that took place in East Africa around 5000 B.C., at about the time that the Sahara started becoming more arid. “Donkeys are champions when it comes to carrying stuff and are good at going through deserts,” Orlando said. Donkeys then spread with humans into Europe and Asia, where they formed genetically distinct groups, he concluded. To read about donkey-hemippe hybrids that were bred in Mesopotamia, go to "Kunga Power."

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