Cattle Family Tree Developed Dating Back 29 Million Years

COLUMBIA, Mo., Oct. 21 (UPI) — A U.S.-led international team of scientists says it’s created a very accurate “family tree” of cows and other ruminants going back up to 29 million years.

Pairing a new approach to prepare ancient DNA with a new scientific technique, the genetic information obtained could allow scientists to understand the evolution of cattle, ruminants and other animals, the scientists said. The same technique also could be used to verify ancient relatives to humans, help farmers develop healthier and more efficient cattle, and assist scientists who are studying human diseases, they note.

University of Missouri-Columbia Professor Jerry Taylor, lead author of the study, said researchers looked at 678 different animals, representing 61 species, and used the new technique to generate some very precise genetic data.

Taylor said the technology could allow scientists to examine hundreds of thousands of points on an animal’s genome simultaneously.

“When we applied this technique to 48 recognized breeds of cattle, we were able to construct a family tree and infer the history of cattle domestication and breed formation across the globe,” he said.

Taylor said the new technology could help solve a number of problems and answer questions about evolution, including how humans are related to extinct hominids and how different plant species are related to each other.

The study is detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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