A team of geneticists from the National Museum of Natural History in France, the University of Mainz in Germany, and UCL in the UK excavated the bones of domestic cattle on archaeological sites in Iran, and then compared those to modern cows. They looked at how differences in DNA sequences could have arisen under different population history scenarios, modelled in computer simulations.
The team found that the differences that show up between the two populations could only have arisen if a relatively small number of animals — approximately 80 — had been domesticated from a now-extinct species of wild ox, known as aurochs, which roamed across Europe and Asia. Those cattle were then bred into the 1.4 billion cattle estimated by the UN to exist in mid-2011.
Story: Duncan Geere, Wired | Photo: Wired