Dawei Cai

Jilin University, Yung-chi, Jilin Sheng, China

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Publications (7)17.47 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Background The donkey (Equus asinus) is an important domestic animal that provides a reliable source of protein and method of transportation for many human populations. However, the process of domestication and the dispersal routes of the Chinese donkey are still unclear, as donkey remains are sparse in the archaeological record and often confused with horse remains. To explore the maternal origins and dispersal route of Chinese donkeys, both mitochondrial DNA D-loop and cytochrome b gene fragments of 21 suspected donkey remains from four archaeological sites in China were amplified and sequenced.ResultsMolecular methods of species identification show that 17 specimens were donkeys and three samples had the maternal genetic signature of horses. One sample that dates to about 20,000 years before present failed to amplify. In this study, the phylogenetic analysis reveals that ancient Chinese donkeys have high mitochondrial DNA diversity and two distinct mitochondrial maternal lineages, known as the Somali and Nubian lineages. These results indicate that the maternal origin of Chinese domestic donkeys was probably related to the African wild ass, which includes the Nubian wild ass (Equus africanus africanus) and the Somali wild ass (Equus africanus somaliensis). Combined with historical records, the results of this study implied that domestic donkeys spread into west and north China before the emergence of the Han dynasty. The number of Chinese domestic donkeys had increased primarily to meet demand for the expansion of trade, and they were likely used as commodities or for shipping goods along the Silk Road during the Tang Dynasty, when the Silk Road reached its golden age.Conclusions This study is the first to provide valuable ancient animal DNA evidence for early trade between African and Asian populations. The ancient DNA analysis of Chinese donkeys also sheds light on the dynamic process of the maternal origin, domestication, and dispersal route of ancient Chinese donkeys.
    BMC Evolutionary Biology 11/2014; 14(1):246. · 3.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Chickens represent by far the most important poultry species, yet the number, locations, and timings of their domestication have remained controversial for more than a century. Here we report ancient mitochondrial DNA sequences from the earliest archaeological chicken bones from China, dating back to ∼10,000 B.P. The results clearly show that all investigated bones, including the oldest from the Nanzhuangtou site, are derived from the genus Gallus, rather than any other related genus, such as Phasianus. Our analyses also suggest that northern China represents one region of the earliest chicken domestication, possibly dating as early as 10,000 y B.P. Similar to the evidence from pig domestication, our results suggest that these early domesticated chickens contributed to the gene pool of modern chicken populations. Moreover, our results support the idea that multiple members of the genus Gallus, specifically Gallus gallus and Gallus sonneratii contributed to the gene pool of the modern domestic chicken. Our results provide further support for the growing evidence of an early mixed agricultural complex in northern China.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 11/2014; 111(49):17564-17569.
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    ABSTRACT: Recent ancient DNA analyses have revealed the origins of European and Near Eastern domestic cattle. In East Asia, however, only a few ancient cattle remains from Korea have been studied. The origins of East Asian domestic cattle and the genetic contribution by ancient cattle to modern cattle are still unclear. To provide new insight into the early history of East Asian domestic cattle, we analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 53 cattle remains, aged between 4500 and 2300 years, excavated from five archaeological sites in Northern China. All ancient Chinese cattle were identified as belonging to taurine cattle. On the one hand, the results support the previous hypothesis that taurine cattle spread into Northern China between 3000 and 2000 BC; on the other hand, the results suggest that zebu cattle did not spread into the Central Plains until at least 1500 BC. Three haplogroups T2, T3, and T4 were present in the ancient Chinese cattle, of which T3 was predominant (79.3%), while T2 and T4 were less common (9.4% and 11.3% respectively). Considering the geographic origin and estimated age of mtDNA haplogroups and the archaeological record of cattle remains in China, our results suggest that Chinese domestic cattle originated from the Near East and were already introduced into the Central Plains around 2500–1900 BC. Furthermore, phylogenetic network analysis indicates that the haplogroup distribution pattern of ancient Chinese cattle is similar to that of modern East Asian taurine cattle, suggesting a genetic continuity from the Bronze Age to present day. Lastly, population pairwise FST distance analysis and multidimensional scaling analysis also support close genetic relationship between ancient Chinese cattle and modern East Asian taurine cattle. All these results suggest that ancient Chinese cattle made an important contribution to the gene pool of modern East Asian taurine cattle.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 01/2014; 41:423–434. · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: China has a long history of sheep husbandry, and has several indigenous sheep breeds. However, the exact geographic origin of Chinese domestic sheep remains unclear. To provide valuable genetic information for origin of Chinese domestic sheep, we performed an ancient DNA study on 22 sheep excavated from four Bronze Age archaeological sites in Northern China. Two lineages (A and B) were observed in ancient Chinese sheep, of which lineage A was predominant reaching a frequency of 95.5%. Furthermore, phylogenetic network showed that the most frequent haplotype in ancient sheep was the founder of lineage A. These results suggest that Lineage A may hold the key to understanding the origin of Chinese domestic sheep. Sequence sharing and principal component analysis showed that the ancient Chinese sheep had a close affinity to modern Chinese sheep. However, there was no significant breed structure among three modern Chinese sheep groups, making it difficult to determine their relationship to ancient Chinese sheep. Lastly, our results imply that ancient DNA analysis could provide a new way to investigate prehistoric East-West contact.Research highlights► Lineage A was predominant in Bronze Age China. ► Ancient Chinese sheep had a close affinity to modern Chinese sheep. ► Ancient DNA could provide valuable clues for the prehistory of East-West contact.
    Journal of Archaeological Science 01/2011; 38(4):896-902. · 2.14 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Tarim Basin, located on the ancient Silk Road, played a very important role in the history of human migration and cultural communications between the West and the East. However, both the exact period at which the relevant events occurred and the origins of the people in the area remain very obscure. In this paper, we present data from the analyses of both Y chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) derived from human remains excavated from the Xiaohe cemetery, the oldest archeological site with human remains discovered in the Tarim Basin thus far. Mitochondrial DNA analysis showed that the Xiaohe people carried both the East Eurasian haplogroup (C) and the West Eurasian haplogroups (H and K), whereas Y chromosomal DNA analysis revealed only the West Eurasian haplogroup R1a1a in the male individuals. Our results demonstrated that the Xiaohe people were an admixture from populations originating from both the West and the East, implying that the Tarim Basin had been occupied by an admixed population since the early Bronze Age. To our knowledge, this is the earliest genetic evidence of an admixed population settled in the Tarim Basin.
    BMC Biology 02/2010; 8:15. · 7.43 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Domestic horses played a pivotal role in ancient China, but their exact origin remains controversial. To investigate the origin of Chinese domestic horses, we analyzed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) from 35 horse remains, aged between 4000 and 2000 years, excavated from nine archaeological sites in northern China. The Chinese ancient horses exhibited high matrilineal diversity, falling into all the seven haplogroups (A–G) observed in modern horses. These results suggest that several maternal lines were introduced into the gene pool of Chinese horses in the past. Haplogroups A and F were more prevalent in ancient horses than the other haplogroups. Interestingly, only haplogroups A and F were present in the samples older than 4000 years, while the more recent horses (between 2000 and 3000 years BP) fell into all seven haplogroups. Comparison with DNA data of present-day horses suggests that haplogroup F is like to be an ancient haplogroup of East Asian origin. These analyses also suggest that the origin of Chinese domestic horses is complex, and external mtDNA input occurred after initial domestication. Our results indicate that the Chinese ancient horses are more related to the modern Mongolian horses. Lastly, our results cannot support the previous hypothesis that early Chinese domestic horses were derived from the Przewalski horse.
    Journal of Archaeological Science. 01/2009;
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    ABSTRACT: The Xianbei existed as a remarkable nomadic tribe in northeastern China for three dynasties: the Han, Jin, and Northern-Southern dynasties (206 BC to 581 AD) in Chinese history. A very important subtribe of the Xianbei is the Murong Xianbei. To investigate the genetic structure of the Murong Xianbei population and to address its genetic relationships with other nomadic tribes at a molecular level, we analyzed the control region sequences and coding-region single nucleotide polymorphism markers of mtDNA from the remains of the Lamadong cemetery of the Three-Yan Culture of the Murong Xianbei population, which is dated to 1,600-1,700 years ago. By combining polymorphisms of the control region with those from the code region, we assigned 17 individuals to haplogroups B, C, D, F, G2a, Z, M, and J1b1. The frequencies of these haplogroups were compared with those of Asian populations and a multidimensional scaling graph was constructed to investigate relationships with other Asian populations. The results indicate that the genetic structure of the Lamadong population is very intricate; it has haplogroups prevalent in both the Eastern Asian and the Siberian populations, showing more affinity with the Eastern Asian populations. The present study also shows that the ancient nomadic tribes of Huns, Tuoba Xianbei, and Murong Xianbei have different maternal genetic structures and that there could have been some genetic exchange among them.
    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 12/2007; 134(3):404-11. · 2.48 Impact Factor