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Wild horses no longer exist, study reveals
The first domestic horses are the ancestors of the Przewalski horse and not of modern domesticated horses.

DNA analysis shows Przewalski’s horses have domestic ancestors

The last ‘wild’ horse on earth is a direct descendant of the earliest domestic horse, according to new research.

Until now, it was thought that all modern domestic horses descended from horses that were domesticated at Botai, some 5,500 years ago, and that only one population of wild horses, the
Przewalskis, survived. But now a new study published in the journal Science has turned this idea on its head.

In the study, an international team of scientists sequenced the genome of 42 ancient horses, including 20 from Botai, to reveal the biological changes underlying the process of animal domestication.
But the researchers were surprised to find that, instead of being the source of modern domestics, the Botai horses appeared to be direct ancestors of Przewalski horses.

“Our findings literally turn current population models of horse origins upside-down,” said says Ludovic Orlando, professor of molecular archaeology at the University of Copenhagen and research director at the CNRS, University of Toulouse. “What we used to understand as the last wild horse on earth is, in fact, the descendant of the earliest domestic horses, which simply escaped human pressure and became feral during the last few millennia.”

The study identified a number of DNA changes that underpin this feralization process, including a variation of the TRPM1 gene involved in leopard spotting. The variation used to be present amongst Botai horses, but it was eliminated from the Przewalski horse’s gene pool.

Researchers say that because such a variant is also linked to night blindness, there is a chance that it could have been maintained artificially by humans and quickly lost by natural selection after the horse turned feral.

“Ironically, we used to think that the endangered population of Przewalski’s horses should be preserved as the last wild horses in the planet,” said Charleen Gaunitz, one of the two PhD students in the Orlando team, who carried out the experimental work for the study. “We now find that they must be preserved as the closest descent of the earliest domestic horses”. 

Image (C) University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna / Ludovic Orlando.


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Report: A third of Welsh birds are in decline

News Story 1
 A report by RSPB Cymru and partnering ornithology organisations has revealed that a third of bird species in Wales are in significant decline.

90 per cent of Wales is farmed and there is now pressure to implement new land management policies that will aid in nature restoration.

Patrick Lindley, Maritime Ornithologist for Natural Resources Wales, commented: “The problems that confront UK birds, whether they are breeding or non-breeding, are pressure and threats that confront entire ecosystems.

“Birds are a great indicator to the health of our environment. The continued population declines of birds of farmed, woodland and upland habitats suggest there are large geographic themes that are having a detrimental impact.”  

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BSAVA announces winner of 2019 Bourgelat Award

One of the world’s leading small animal medicine specialists is set to receive the prestigious Bourgelat Award at BSAVA Congress 2019.

Professor Mike Herrtage will be recognised for his major research into metabolic and endocrine diseases, including diabetes mellitus, Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease.

During his career, Prof Herrtage has co-authored more than 100 scientific papers and written more than 200 other publications such as abstracts, books and chapters. He also continues to be a source of inspiration for thousands of undergraduate and postgraduate veterinary surgeons.