Programs > By author > Cristina Gamba

Unveiling the importance of mule breeding in antiquity using minimal DNA data
Antoine Fages  1, 2@  , Mikkel Schubert  2@  , Marjan Mashkour  3@  , Charleen Gaunitz  2@  , Andaine Seguin-Orlando  4, 5@  , Shiva Sheikhi Seno  3@  , Ahmed H. Alfarhan  6@  , Saleh A. Alquraishi  6@  , Khaled A.s. Al-Rasheid  6@  , Richard Chuang  7@  , Luca Ermini  2@  , Gamba Cristina  2@  , Jaco Weinstock  7@  , Onar Vedat  8@  , Ludovic Orlando  1, 2@  
1 : Anthropologie Moléculaire et Imagerie de Synthèse  (AMIS)  -  Website
PRES Université de Toulouse, université de Strasbourg, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique : UMR5288
37 allées Jules Guesdes -31073 Toulouse -  France
2 : Centre for GeoGenetics  (CGG)  -  Website
Natural History Museum of Denmark, Øster Voldgade 5-7, 1350K Copenhagen, Denmark -  Danemark
3 : Centre National de Recherche Scientifique- Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle  (CNRS/MNHN)
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - CNRS, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN)
4 : Danish National High-Throughput DNA Sequencing Center
Natural History Museum of Denmark, Øster Farimagsgade 2D, 1353K Copenhagen, Denmark -  Danemark
5 : Anthropologie moléculaire et imagerie de synthèse  (AMIS)  -  Website
Université Paul Sabatier (UPS) - Toulouse III, CNRS : FRE2960
Adresse 37 allées Jules Guesde 31400 Toulouse -  France
6 : Zoology Department, College of Science, King Saud University
Riyadh, 11451, Saudi Arabia -  Arabie saoudite
7 : Faculty of Humanities, University of Southampton
Avenue Campus, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BF, United Kingdom -  Royaume-Uni
8 : Anatomy Department, Istanbul University Faculty of Veterinary Medicine
Dalı, 34320, Avcılar, Istanbul, Turkey -  Turquie

The members of the Equus genus, which includes horses, asses and zebras, can develop first generation (F1-) hybrids, despite their striking karyotypic and phenotypic differences. These hybrids are viable but mostly infertile, and often present characters of considerable interests for breeders with mules – the offspring of a mare and a jack – showing stronger working capacities, longer life spans, and better resistance to diseases than horses. They were extremely valued in antiquity, especially for trade, transport and warfare, and are relatively commonly represented in art. However, taxonomic identification of such hybrids in archaeological assemblages based solely on morphological data remains problematic. This is mostly due to the often fragmentary nature of the material available as well as the relative scarcity of the comparative morphological panel. Using high-throughput DNA sequencing technologies, we developed a full, accurate and automated methodological procedure capable of identifying F1-equine hybrids from minute amounts of sequence data. Our procedure thus limits experimental costs while remains compatible with samples showing extremely limited DNA preservation levels. We apply our procedure to the most extensive equine sample panel hitherto characterized and provide insights into the extent to which mules were essential to management strategies of different past empires and societies, including the Romans and the Byzantines.

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