Scientists have used traces of retrovirus DNA to map ancient sheep migration across Asia, Europe, and Africa, a paper in this week's Science reports. The results may help settle a debate about where humans first bred sheep for their white, fleecy coats, the researchers say.
Soay sheep on St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides

Image: Arpat Ozgul
"What's neat about [the study] is that you're learning something about humans indirectly by studying animals that they brought along with them," said Welkin Johnson, a virologist at Harvard Medical School and the Institute for Primate Research in Southborough, Mass., who was not involved in the study. Ancient plant and animal domestication fueled human population growth, spurred the rise of cities, and "changed the course of our whole species," said Melinda Zeder, director of the archaeobiology program at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, who studies the domestication of sheep and goats but...
Massimo Palmarini
Urial Sheep
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Mouflon in zoo
Image: Wikimedia Commons

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