(ORDO NEWS) — An international team of researchers from Japan and China has found that geese may have been domesticated as early as 7,000 years ago, suggesting they were the first poultry species to be domesticated, Xinhua news agency reported.
Scholars have long held differing opinions about the history of bird domestication. Some suggest that chickens were the first to be domesticated.
In 2014, Chinese researchers reported ancient DNA sequences taken from the earliest archaeological find of chicken bones in China, suggesting that chickens were domesticated in northern China as early as 10,000 years ago.
In the new study, the team excavated the archaeological site of Tianluoshan, a rice cultivation village 7,000 years ago in the lower Yangtze River valley. At this site, they found a total of 232 goose bones. The villagers were hunter-gatherers. The researchers used several approaches to study the bones and found signs of domestication.
Four of the bones belonged to goslings between eight and 16 weeks old, suggesting that they hatched near the site. Geese were domesticated from wild geese.
According to researchers at the Zhejiang Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, these migratory birds fly to northern Siberia to breed after the spring equinox and then fly south for the winter.
They said the goslings were too young to have come from somewhere else. At that time, there were no conditions for natural breeding of wild geese in Tianluoshan, so it follows that the goslings were born after domestication.
The researchers also analyzed the chemical makeup of adult geese’s bones, which contained traces of the water they drank.
Their analysis showed that adult geese also appear to have been bred by humans. Locally bred geese were about the same size, suggestive of captive breeding. Radiocarbon dating also showed that the bones belonged to geese that lived about 7,000 years ago.
The results were published in the American journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The researchers said further research needed to analyze the ancient DNA to find out which species were bred.
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