May 2020
Vol 6, Issue 21

About The Cover

Cover image expansion

ONLINE COVER Goats were one of the first livestock species to be domesticated, but scientists have not been clear as to which genes enabled successful adaptation to an agrarian lifestyle early in the domestication process. While it is believed that goat domestication began about 11,000 years ago from populations of the wild goat species Capra aegagrus, it has remained uncertain whether other wild goat species may have contributed genes as well. To explore shifts in key genetic variants as goats transitioned to livestock, Zheng et al. conducted a population genomic survey of 164 modern domestic goats, 52 ancient goats, 24 modern wild goats, and four ancient wild goats from around the world. The researchers found that a species resembling the West Caucasian tur (a mountain-dwelling wild goat) may have transferred a gene to the ancestors of domestic goats that boosts pathogen resistance. This gene, called MUC6, conferred an enhanced immune response to gastrointestinal pathogens that may have equipped goats to survive in an agricultural setting, where animals packed together in close quarters can spread novel infectious diseases. [CREDIT: DEAGOSTINI/GETTY IMAGES]