The domestic water buffalo is native to the Asian continent but through historical migrations and recent importations, nowadays has a worldwide distribution. The two types of water buffalo, i.e., river and swamp, display distinct morphological and behavioral traits, different karyotypes and also have different purposes and geographical distributions. River buffaloes from Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Mozambique, Brazil and Colombia, and swamp buffaloes from China, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Brazil were genotyped with a species-specific medium-density 90K SNP panel. We estimated the levels of molecular diversity and described population structure, which revealed historical relationships between populations and migration events. Three distinct gene pools were identified in pure river as well as in pure swamp buffalo populations. Genomic admixture was seen in the Philippines and in Brazil, resulting from importations of animals for breed improvement. Our results were largely consistent with previous archeological, historical and molecular-based evidence for two independent domestication events for river- and swamp-type buffaloes, which occurred in the Indo-Pakistani region and close to the China/Indochina border, respectively. Based on a geographical analysis of the distribution of diversity, our evidence also indicated that the water buffalo spread out of the domestication centers followed two major divergent migration directions: river buffaloes migrated west from the Indian sub-continent while swamp buffaloes migrated from northern Indochina via an east-south-eastern route. These data suggest that the current distribution of water buffalo diversity has been shaped by the combined effects of multiple migration events occurred at different stages of the post-domestication history of the species.
- Journal Article