Temporal and structural genetic variation in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) associated with the pastoral transition in Northwestern Siberia

Knut H. Røed, Kjersti S. Kvie, Robert J. Losey, Pavel A. Kosintsev, Anne K. Hufthammer, Mark J. Dwyer, Vasiliy Goncharov, Константин Борисович Клоков, Dmitry V. Arzyutov, Andrei Plekhanov, David G. Anderson

Research output

2 Citations (Scopus)


Just as the domestication of livestock is often cited as a key element in the Neolithic
transition to settled, the emergence of large-scaled reindeer husbandry was a fundamental
social transformation for the indigenous peoples of Arctic Eurasia. To better
understand the history of reindeer domestication, and the genetic processes associated
with the pastoral transition in the Eurasian Arctic, we analyzed archaeological and
contemporary reindeer samples from Northwestern Siberia. The material represents
Rangifer genealogies spanning from 15,000 years ago to the 18th century, as well as
modern samples from the wild Taĭmyr population and from domestic herds managed by
Nenetses. The wild and the domestic population are the largest populations of their kind
in Northern Eurasia, and some Nenetses hold their domestic reindeer beside their wild
cousins. Our analyses of 197 modern and 223 ancient mitochondrial DNA sequences
revealed two genetic clusters, which are interpreted as representing the gene pools of
contemporary domestic and past wild reindeer. Among a total of 137 different mitochondrial
haplotypes identified in both the modern and archaeological samples, only
21 were detected in the modern domestic gene pool, while 11 of these were absent
from the wild gene pool. The significant temporal genetic shift that we associate with
the pastoral transition suggests that the emergence and spread of reindeer pastoralism
in Northwestern Siberia originated with the translocation and subsequent selective
breeding of a special type of animal from outside the region. The distinct and persistent
domestic characteristics of the haplotype structure since the 18th century suggests
little genetic exchange since then. The absence of the typical domestic clade in modern
nearby wild populations suggests that the contemporary Nenets domestic breed feature
an ancestry from outside its present main distribution, possibly from further South.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Early online date28 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Apr 2020

Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

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