Research Article: Genetic homogeneity of North-African goats

Date Published: August 16, 2018

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Nadjet-Amina Ouchene-Khelifi, Mohamed Lafri, François Pompanon, Abdessamad Ouhrouch, Nassim Ouchene, Véronique Blanquet, Johannes A. Lenstra, Badr Benjelloun, Anne Da Silva, Suzannah Rutherford.


North Africa represents a rich and early reservoir of goat genetic diversity, from which the main African breeds have been derived. In this study, the genetic diversity of four indigenous Algerian goat breeds (i.e., Arabia, Makatia, M’Zabite and Kabyle, with n = 12 for each breed) has been investigated for the first time by genome-wide SNP genotyping; moreover in a broader context, genetic structuration of Algerian and Moroccan goats was explored (via FST, MDS, STRUCTURE, FineSTRUCTURE, BAPS, sPCA and DAPC analyses). At national level, the study revealed high level of genetic diversity and a significant phenomenon of admixture affecting all the Algerian breeds. At broader scale, clear global genetic homogeneity appeared considering both Algerian and Moroccan stocks. Indeed, genetic structuration was almost nonexistent among Arabia (from Algeria), Draa, Black and Nord (from Morocco), while the ancestral Kabyle and M’Zabite breeds, reared by Berber peoples, showed genetic distinctness. The study highlighted the threat to the Maghrebin stock, probably induced by unsupervised cross-breeding practices which have intensified in recent centuries. Moreover, it underlined the necessity to deepen our understanding of the genetic resources represented by the resilient North-African goat stock.

Partial Text

About 11,000 years ago, Neolithic farmers in the Near East, started keeping herds of wild bezoar ibex (Capra aegagrus) for their milk, meat, hair and skin [1–4]. Thus began one of the oldest histories of domestication which led to the development of the domestic goat (Capra hircus). From the domestication centers in Central Zagros and Eastern Anatolia, goat rapidly spread westward along the Mediterranean coasts [5–7]. Archaeological remains, of both sheep and goat, found along the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, suggest a fast dispersal from Southwest Asia into North Africa between 7,000 BP and 6,000 BP [8]. According to bones from the Capeletti Cave, the presence of sheep and goat in Algeria dates back to 6,000 BP [8], and the Gueldaman Cave in the Kabylie Mountains reveals a well-established pastoral economy around 6400–5900 BP [9]. Subsequent waves of goat migrations from different genetic backgrounds might have influenced the Maghrebin livestock by leading to complex genetic make-up closely linked to the area’s history [10]. In particular, the Arabian invasion (around 1340 BP) is thought to have exerted a significant impact [11].

Our comprehensive analysis of a genome-wide SNP dataset provided original information on the genetic diversity of Algerian goat breeds, in a national and trans-boundary context, and assessed the extent to which genetic homogenization affected the Maghrebin goat stock.




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