Chinese scientists have revealed that genetic exchange with an unknown wolf-like canid helped Tibetan mastiffs adapt to high altitudes, according to a study published online in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.
As the highest plateau in the world, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is famous for its low oxygen, low temperatures and strong ultraviolet radiation. With the migration and settlement of human beings, domesticated animals also survived the harsh living environment.
Genetic exchange is key in the adaptive evolution of domesticated animals. Earlier studies suggest that the EPAS1 gene might help reduce hypoxia and resist frigidity in Tibetan animals.
The Tibetan mastiff, an ancient domestic dog from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, was believed to have obtained the EPAS1 gene from a genetic exchange with a Tibetan wolf.
Scientists from the Kunming Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have sequenced the genomes of Tibetan mastiffs and Tibetan wolves, finding that the EPAS1 genes in the two species are both derived from an unknown wolf-like canid.