The genomic history and global expansion of domestic donkeys

Todd E. T., Tonasso-Calviere L., Chauvey L., Schiavinato S., Fages A., Seguin-Orlando A., ...More

SCIENCE, vol.377, no.6611, pp.1172-1180, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 377 Issue: 6611
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1126/science.abo3503
  • Journal Name: SCIENCE
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, Aerospace Database, Agricultural & Environmental Science Database, Animal Behavior Abstracts, Applied Science & Technology Source, Aquatic Science & Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), Artic & Antarctic Regions, ATLA Religion Database, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, Chemical Abstracts Core, Communication Abstracts, Computer & Applied Sciences, EBSCO Education Source, EMBASE, Environment Index, Gender Studies Database, Geobase, Linguistic Bibliography, MEDLINE, Metadex, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Pollution Abstracts, Psycinfo, Public Affairs Index, Veterinary Science Database, zbMATH, DIALNET, Civil Engineering Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.1172-1180
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: No


Donkeys transformed human history as essential beasts of burden for long-distance movement, especially across semi-arid and upland environments. They remain insufficiently studied despite globally expanding and providing key support to low- to middle-income communities. To elucidate their domestication history, we constructed a comprehensive genome panel of 207 modern and 31 ancient donkeys, as well as 15 wild equids. We found a strong phylogeographic structure in modern donkeys that supports a single domestication in Africa similar to 5000 BCE, followed by further expansions in this continent and Eurasia and ultimately returning to Africa. We uncover a previously unknown genetic lineage in the Levant similar to 200 BCE, which contributed increasing ancestry toward Asia. Donkey management involved inbreeding and the production of giant bloodlines at a time when mules were essential to the Roman economy and military.