The genomic history and global expansion of domestic donkeys

Evelyn T. Todd, Laure Tonasso-Calvière, Loreleï Chauvey, Stéphanie Schiavinato, Antoine Fages, Andaine Seguin-Orlando, Pierre Clavel, Naveed Khan, Lucía Pérez Pardal, Laura Patterson Rosa, Pablo Librado, Harald Ringbauer, Marta Verdugo, John Southon, Jean Marc Aury, Aude Perdereau, Emmanuelle Vila, Matilde Marzullo, Ornella Prato, Umberto TecchiatiGiovanna Bagnasco Gianni, Antonio Tagliacozzo, Vincenzo Tinè, Francesca Alhaique, João Luís Cardoso, Maria João Valente, Miguel Telles Antunes, Laurent Frantz, Beth Shapiro, Daniel G. Bradley, Nicolas Boulbes, Armelle Gardeisen, Liora Kolska Horwitz, Aliye Öztan, Benjamin S. Arbuckle, Vedat Onar, Benoît Clavel, Sébastien Lepetz, Ali Akbar Vahdati, Hossein Davoudi, Azadeh Mohaseb, Marjan Mashkour, Olivier Bouchez, Cécile Donnadieu, Patrick Wincker, Samantha A. Brooks, Albano Beja-Pereira, Dong Dong Wu, Ludovic Orlando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


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 ∼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 ∼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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1172-1180
Number of pages9
Issue number6611
StatePublished - 9 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes

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