The taurine and zebuine cattle breeds comprise the majority of the world cattle population but their taxonomic status is still controversial. The two forms of cattle are currently classified as Bos taurus and Bos indicus species and are differentiated primarily by the presence or absence of a hump. However, these two species hybridize readily, producing fully fertile offspring. We have determined and analyzed complete B. taurus and B. indicus mitochondrial genome sequences to investigate the extent of sequence divergences and to study their taxonomic status by molecular dating. The sequences encompassed 16,338 and 16,339 nucleotides, respectively, and differed at 237 positions. Estimated divergence times indicated that the two cattle lineages separated 1.7–2.0 million years ago. Combined phylogenetic analyses of 18 new and 130 previously reported extant B. taurus and B. indicus control region sequences with data from 32 archaeological specimens of the extinct wild aurochs (Bos primigenius) identified four major maternal lineages. B. primigenius haplotypes were present in all but the B. indicus lineage, and one B. taurus sequence clustered with B. primigenius P haplotypes that were not previously linked with domestic cattle. The B. indicus cluster and a recently reported new B. primigenius haplotype that represents a new lineage were approximately equidistant from the B. taurus cluster. These data suggest domestications from several differentiated populations of B. primigenius and a subspecies status for taurine (B. primigenius taurus) and zebuine (B. primigenius indicus) cattle.
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