21st August 2002
CLUES TO BREEDING IN ANCIENT LIVESTOCK DNA
The ancient remains of farm animals excavated in Lincoln could reveal hitherto unknown clues about the history of livestock breeding in Lincolnshire as far back as the English Civil War.
Two University of Lincoln students have won scholarships to spend the summer researching the history of farm livestock improvement in the county.
Katrina Hanley and Lindsay Whistance are spending 10 weeks examining cattle and sheep remains excavated from archaeological sites in the city.
Katrina (29), a second-year Forensic Science student from Lincoln, was awarded her scholarship by the Wellcome Trust, while Lindsay (35) from Hereford, who studies Animal Science, is being supported in her research by the Nuffield Foundation.
“We are lucky to have such a good collection of farm animal bones from as far back as the English Civil War which have been kept in the City and County Museum in Lincoln,” said Dr Ron Dixon of the University of Lincoln, who is supervising the students.
“We’re hoping that by extracting DNA from the old animal bones and analysing it in our labs, we can recognise changes in the genetic signatures of the sheep or cattle breeds throughout history.
“Abrupt changes in certain regions of the DNA sequence may tell us when other breeds were introduced and from where they originated.”
Professor Stephen Hall, who is a co-supervisor, added: “Documentary evidence from the time suggests that in different periods of history, cattle and sheep breeds were introduced to provide better wool, milk yield or meat.
“Since many of the original breeds have died out, the evidence of what occurred may depend entirely on what genetic clues we can find in these ancient bones.”
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