Maintaining genetic integrity of coexisting wild and domestic populations: Genetic differentiation between wild and domestic Rangifer with long traditions of intentional interbreeding

David G. Anderson (Corresponding Author), Kjersti S. Kvie, Vladimir N. Davydov, Knut H. Røed

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This study investigates the genetic effect of an indigenous tradition of deliberate and controlled interbreeding between wild and domestic Rangifer. The results are interpreted in the context of conservation concerns and debates on the origin of domestic animals. The study is located in Northeastern Zabaĭkal’e, Russia at approximately 57 degrees North latitude. Blood and skin samples, collected from wild and domestic Rangifer, are analysed for their mtDNA and microsatellite signatures. Local husbandry traditions are documented ethnographically. The genetic data is analysed with special reference to indigenous understandings of the distinctions between local domestic types and wild Rangifer. The genetic results demonstrate a strong differentiation between wild and domestic populations. We found a stronger differentiation between pooled wild and domestic reindeer in mtDNA comparison to the nuclear microsatellites, which suggests male-mediated gene flow between the two gene pools. The nuclear microsatellite results also point to distinct differences between regional domestic clusters. Our results indicate that the Evenki herders have an effective breeding technique which, while mixing pedigrees in the short-term, guards against wholesale introgression between wild and domestic populations over the long-term. They support a model of domestication where wild males and domestic females are selectively interbred, without hybridizing the two populations. Our conclusions inform a debate on the origins of domestication by documenting a situation where both wild and domestic types are in constant interaction. The study further informs a debate in conservation biology by demonstrating that certain types of controlled introgression between wild and domestic types need not reduce genetic diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6790-6802
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number17
Early online date26 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • domestication
  • Evenki
  • ndigenous animal husbandry
  • interbreeding
  • introgression
  • male-mediated gene flow
  • reindeer husbandry
  • reproductive isolation
  • Russia

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