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Archaeogenetics - ARCHGEN

Archaeogenetics - ARCHGEN

The Archaeogenetics group (ArchGen) investigates the origins, evolution and improvement of domesticated animals mainly from Iberia and the Maghreb. These regions share zoo-geographical affinities and there were complex biogeographic relationships between them as well as historic human and faunal contacts during the early Holocene. The Mediterranean region was a biological refuge during Ice Ages and has been a biodiversity hotspot for many species. We study the co-evolution of important domestic taxa like cattle, goat, sheep and dog to cover a wide range of processes and investigate post-domestication variation of inherited traits. These taxa underwent different modes of domestication, dispersal and post-domestication admixture.

The analysis of ancient DNA opens a direct window into the past to reconstruct the evolutionary history of animal populations. Our specific aims are to:

- Describe the genetic diversity of the wild ancestors of Iberian domesticates and to compare them with contemporary populations from other European regions, i.e. a diachronic study to contrast Glacial vs. post-Glacial populations.

- Evaluate the past contribution of ancestral wild species to the genetic makeup of local domestic breeds, i.e. to investigate the extent of admixture between wild and domestic animals and to determine in which species this occurred and when.

- Use novel tools to design a refined set of genetic markers that capture temporal and geographical changes in the population dynamics of domestic animals.

- Describe phenotypic traits of ancient animals and their variation over time to investigate animal improvement in association with husbandry practices imposed by the different cultures that inhabited Iberia and the Maghreb.

A synergistic approach - merging zooarchaeology and genomics - is planned to capture the temporal and geographical dimensions of the evolution and population structure of domestic animals, of their early counterparts and of their ancestral wild-types.

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