The genetic architecture of climatic adaptation of tropical cattle

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Abstract

Adaptation of global food systems to climate change is essential to feed the world. Tropical cattle production, a mainstay of profitability for farmers in the developing world, is dominated by heat, lack of water, poor quality feedstuffs, parasites, and tropical diseases. In these systems European cattle suffer significant stock loss, and the cross breeding of taurine x indicine cattle is unpredictable due to the dilution of adaptation to heat and tropical diseases. We explored the genetic architecture of ten traits of tropical cattle production using genome wide association studies of 4,662 animals varying from 0% to 100% indicine. We show that nine of the ten have genetic architectures that include genes of major effect, and in one case, a single location that accounted for more than 71% of the genetic variation. One genetic region in particular had effects on parasite resistance, yearling weight, body condition score, coat colour and penile sheath score. This region, extending 20 Mb on BTA5, appeared to be under genetic selection possibly through maintenance of haplotypes by breeders. We found that the amount of genetic variation and the genetic correlations between traits did not depend upon the degree of indicine content in the animals. Climate change is expected to expand some conditions of the tropics to more temperate environments, which may impact negatively on global livestock health and production. Our results point to several important genes that have large effects on adaptation that could be introduced into more temperate cattle without detrimental effects on productivity.

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Porto-Neto, L. R., Reverter, A., Prayaga, K. C., Chan, E. K. F., Johnston, D. J., Hawken, R. J., … Barendse, W. (2014). The genetic architecture of climatic adaptation of tropical cattle. PLoS ONE, 9(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0113284

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