Domestication and the mitochondrial genome: comparing patterns and rates of molecular evolution in domesticated mammals and birds and their wild relatives

Camile Moray, Robert Lanfear, Lindell Bromham

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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Studies of domesticated animals have led to the suggestion that domestication could have significant effects on patterns of molecular evolution. In particular, analyses of mitochondrial genome sequences from domestic dogs and yaks have yielded higher ratios of non-synonymous to synonymous substitutions in the domesticated lineages than in their wild relatives. These results are important because they imply that changes to selection or population size operating over a short timescale can cause significant changes to the patterns of mitochondrial molecular evolution. In this study, our aim is to test whether the impact on mitochondrial genome evolution is a general feature of domestication or whether it is specific to particular examples. We test whether domesticated mammals and birds have consistently different patterns of molecular evolution than their wild relatives for 16 phylogenetically independent comparisons of mitochondrial genome sequences. We find no consistent difference in branch lengths or dN/dS between domesticated and wild lineages. We also find no evidence that our failure to detect a consistent pattern is due to the short timescales involved or low genetic distance between domesticated lineages and their wild relatives. However, removing comparisons where the wild relative may also have undergone a bottleneck does reveal a pattern consistent with reduced effective population size in domesticated lineages. Our results suggest that, although some domesticated lineages may have undergone changes to selective regime or effective population size that could have affected mitochondrial evolution, it is not possible to generalize these patterns over all domesticated mammals and birds.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-169
Number of pages9
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2014. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • relaxed selection
  • artificial selection
  • mitochondria
  • dN/dS
  • effective population size
  • comparative analysis
  • Mitochondria
  • Relaxed selection
  • Artificial selection
  • Effective population size
  • Comparative analysis
  • D /d


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