Nature communications

Yak whole-genome resequencing reveals domestication signatures and prehistoric population expansions.

PMID 26691338


Yak domestication represents an important episode in the early human occupation of the high-altitude Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP). The precise timing of domestication is debated and little is known about the underlying genetic changes that occurred during the process. Here we investigate genome variation of wild and domestic yaks. We detect signals of selection in 209 genes of domestic yaks, several of which relate to behaviour and tameness. We date yak domestication to 7,300 years before present (yr BP), most likely by nomadic people, and an estimated sixfold increase in yak population size by 3,600 yr BP. These dates coincide with two early human population expansions on the QTP during the early-Neolithic age and the late-Holocene, respectively. Our findings add to an understanding of yak domestication and its importance in the early human occupation of the QTP.