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Papachristou, Dimitris; Koutsouli, Panagiota; Laliotis, George P.; Kunz, Elisabeth; Upadhyay, Maulik; Seichter, Doris; Russ, Ingolf; Gjoko, Bunevski; Kostaras, Nikolaos; Bizelis, Iosif and Medugorac, Ivica (2020): Genomic diversity and population structure of the indigenous Greek and Cypriot cattle populations. In: Genetics, selection, evolution : GSE, Vol. 52, No. 1, 43 [PDF, 5MB]


BACKGROUND The indigenous cattle populations from Greece and Cyprus have decreased to small numbers and are currently at risk of extinction due to socio-economic reasons, geographic isolation and crossbreeding with commercial breeds. This study represents the first comprehensive genome-wide analysis of 10 indigenous cattle populations from continental Greece and the Greek islands, and one from Cyprus, and compares them with 104 international breeds using more than 46,000 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). RESULTS We estimated several parameters of genetic diversity (e.g. heterozygosity and allelic diversity) that indicated a severe loss of genetic diversity for the island populations compared to the mainland populations, which is mainly due to the declining size of their population in recent years and subsequent inbreeding. This high inbreeding status also resulted in higher genetic differentiation within the Greek and Cyprus cattle group compared to the remaining geographical breed groups. Supervised and unsupervised cluster analyses revealed that the phylogenetic patterns in the indigenous Greek breeds were consistent with their geographical origin and historical information regarding crosses with breeds of Anatolian or Balkan origin. Cyprus cattle showed a relatively high indicine ancestry. Greek island populations are placed close to the root of the tree as defined by Gir and the outgroup Yak, whereas the mainland breeds share a common historical origin with Bu\va. Unsupervised clustering and D-statistics analyses provided strong support for Bos indicus introgression in almost all the investigated local cattle breeds along the route from Anatolia up to the southern foothills of the Alps, as well as in most cattle breeds along the Apennine peninsula to the southern foothills of the Alps. CONCLUSIONS All investigated Cyprus and Greek breeds present complex mosaic genomes as a result of historical and recent admixture events between neighbor and well-separated breeds. While the contribution of some mainland breeds to the genetic diversity pool seems important, some island and fragmented mainland breeds suffer from a severe decline of population size and loss of alleles due to genetic drift. Conservation programs that are a compromise between what is feasible and what is desirable should focus not only on the still highly diverse mainland breeds but also promote and explore the conservation possibilities for island breeds.

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