An international team of researchers have identified the genes that is possibly responsible for the domestication of horses, enabling the scientists to establish a link between ancient and modern horses.
The scientists carried genomic analysis of horses in order to identify the potential changes in their DNA that led the ancient horses (those found in prehistoric cave art) transform into today’s Black Beauty and Secretariats.
They carried genomes sequencing of both ancient horses and their modern counterparts.
According to the study investigators, there are nearly 125 specific genes that are expected to have played a significant role in domestication of horses.
The study also threw light upon one of the unfortunate by-products of the domestication process. The research showed that the high levels of gene mutations have accumulated within the population of modern horses.
In this recent study, the researchers involved remains of ancient horses from Russia that dated back to between 16,000 and 43,000 years ago.
Researchers took the horse remains from the mentioned period as they believe the process of domestication of horses may have taken place more than 5,500 years ago.
They compared the genomes of ancient horse with five domesticated breeds of modern horses. The comparative study showed that the domestication of these animals has left a minimum of 125 genetic marks in the modern ones.
Several genes involved in the process are linked with bone and muscle development, suggesting that the genes aided in using breeds of ancient horse for the purpose of transportation, said study co-author Beth Shapiro, who also heads the Paleogenomics Lab for UC Santa Cruz.
Some other gene changes included fear response, agreeableness, social behavior and learning capabilities. This indicated that the genes could have been significant for transformation of wild animals into their docile and domesticated counterparts.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.