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Concept: Mouflon


The discovery and identification of Ovis aries (sheep) miRNAs will further promote the study of miRNA functions and gene regulatory mechanisms. To explore the microRNAome (miRNAome) of sheep in depth, samples were collected that included eight developmental stages: the longissimus dorsi muscles of Texel fetuses at 70, 85, 100, 120, and 135 days, and the longissimus dorsi muscles of Ujumqin fetuses at 70, 85, 100, 120, and 135 d, and lambs at 0 (birth), 35, and 70 d. These samples covered all of the representative periods of Ovis aries growth and development throughout gestation (about 150 d) and 70 d after birth. Texel and Ujumqin libraries were separately subjected to Solexa deep sequencing; 35,700,772 raw reads were obtained overall. We used ACGT101-miR v4.2 to analyze the sequence data. Following meticulous comparisons with mammalian mature miRNAs, precursor hairpins (pre-miRNAs), and the latest sheep genome, we substantially extended the Ovis aries miRNAome. The list of pre-miRNAs was extended to 2,319, expressing 2,914 mature miRNAs. Among those, 1,879 were genome mapped to unique miRNAs, representing 2,436 genome locations, and 1,754 pre-miRNAs were mapped to chromosomes. Furthermore, the Ovis aries miRNAome was processed using an elaborate bioinformatic analysis that examined multiple end sequence variation in miRNAs, precursors, chromosomal localizations, species-specific expressions, and conservative properties. Taken together, this study provides the most comprehensive and accurate exploration of the sheep miRNAome, and draws conclusions about numerous characteristics of Ovis aries miRNAs, including miRNAs and isomiRs.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Chromosome, Harshad number, Longissimus, Domestic sheep, Ovis, Mouflon


SUMMARY Ivermectin (IVE), one of the most important anthelmintics, is often used in the treatment of haemonchosis in ruminants. The objective of our work was (1) to find and identify phase I and II metabolites of IVE formed by the Barber’s pole worm (Haemonchus contortus), and (2) to compare IVE metabolites in helminths with IVE biotransformation in sheep (Ovis aries) as host species. Ultrahigh-performance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (UHPLC/MS/MS) was used for this purpose. During in vitro incubations, microsomes (from adult worms or from ovine liver) and a primary culture of ovine hepatocytes were incubated with IVE. In the ex vivo study, living H. contortus adults were incubated in the presence of 1 μM IVE for 24 h. The results showed that the H. contortus enzymatic system is not able to metabolize IVE. On the other hand, 7 different phase I as well as 9 phase II IVE metabolites were detected in ovine samples using UHPLC/MS/MS analyses. Most of these metabolites have not been described before. Haemonchus contortus is not able to deactivate IVE through biotransformation; therefore, biotransformation does not contribute to the development of IVE-resistance in the Barber’s pole worm.

Concepts: Metabolism, In vivo, Domestic sheep, Haemonchus contortus, Ovis, Sheep, Mouflon, Barber's pole


Pneumonia of bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) is a dramatic disease of high morbidity and mortality first described more than 80 years ago. The etiology of the disease has been debated since its initial discovery, and at various times lungworms, Mannheimia haemolytica and other Pasteurellaceae, and Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae have been proposed as primary causal agents. A multi-factorial “respiratory disease complex” has also been proposed as confirmation of causation has eluded investigators. In this paper we review the evidence for each of the candidate primary agents with regard to causal criteria including strength of association, temporality, plausibility, experimental evidence, and analogy. While we find some degree of biological plausibility for all agents and strong experimental evidence for M. haemolytica, we demonstrate that of the alternatives considered, M. ovipneumoniae is the best supported by all criteria and is therefore the most parsimonious explanation for the disease. The strong but somewhat controversial experimental evidence implicating disease transmission from domestic sheep is consistent with this finding. Based on epidemiologic and microbiologic data, we propose that healthy bighorn sheep populations are naïve to M. ovipneumoniae, and that its introduction to susceptible bighorn sheep populations results in epizootic polymicrobial bacterial pneumonia often followed by chronic infection in recovered adults. If this hypothesized model is correct, efforts to control this disease by development or application of vectored vaccines to Pasteurellaceae are unlikely to provide significant benefits, whereas efforts to ensure segregation of healthy bighorn sheep populations from M. ovipneumoniae-infected reservoir hosts are crucial to prevention of new disease epizootics. It may also be possible to develop M. ovipneumoniae vaccines or other management strategies that could reduce the impact of this devastating disease in bighorn sheep.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Bacteria, Causality, Ovis, Mouflon, Bighorn Sheep, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Snow sheep


Whole genome sequences (WGS) have proliferated as sequencing technology continues to improve and costs decline. While many WGS of model or domestic organisms have been produced, a growing number of non-model species are also being sequenced. In the absence of a reference, construction of a genome sequence necessitates de novo assembly which may be beyond the ability of many labs due to the large volumes of raw sequence data and extensive bioinformatics required. In contrast, the presence of a reference WGS allows for alignment which is more tractable than assembly. Recent work has highlighted that the reference need not come from the same species, potentially enabling a wide array of species WGS to be constructed using cross-species alignment. Here we report on the creation a draft WGS from a single bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) using alignment to the closely related domestic sheep (Ovis aries).

Concepts: DNA, Chromosome, Sequence, Domestic sheep, Ovis, Mouflon, Bighorn Sheep, Snow sheep


Sheep are thought to have been one of the first livestock to be domesticated in the Near East, thus playing an important role in human history. The current whole mitochondrial genome phylogeny for the genus Ovis is based on: the five main domestic haplogroups occurring among sheep (O. aries), along with molecular data from two wild European mouflons, three urials, and one argali. With the aim to shed some further light on the phylogenetic relationship within this genus, the first complete mitochondrial genome sequence of a Cypriot mouflon (O. gmelini ophion) is here reported. Phylogenetic analyses were performed using a dataset of whole Ovis mitogenomes as well as D-loop sequences. The concatenated sequence of 28 mitochondrial genes of one Cypriot mouflon, and the D-loop sequence of three Cypriot mouflons were compared to sequences obtained from samples representatives of the five domestic sheep haplogroups along with samples of the extant wild and feral sheep. The sample included also individuals from the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Corsica hosting remnants of the first wave of domestication that likely went then back to feral life. The divergence time between branches in the phylogenetic tree has been calculated using seven different calibration points by means of Bayesian and Maximum Likelihood inferences. Results suggest that urial (O. vignei) and argali (O. ammon) diverged from domestic sheep about 0.89 and 1.11 million years ago (MYA), respectively; and dates the earliest radiation of domestic sheep common ancestor at around 0.3 MYA. Additionally, our data suggest that the rise of the modern sheep haplogroups happened in the span of time between six and 32 thousand years ago (KYA). A close phylogenetic relationship between the Cypriot and the Anatolian mouflon carrying the X haplotype was detected. The genetic distance between this group and the other ovine haplogroups supports the hypothesis that it may be a new haplogroup never described before. Furthermore, the updated phylogenetic tree presented in this study determines a finer classification of ovine species and may help to classify more accurately new mitogenomes within the established haplogroups so far identified.

Concepts: DNA, Phylogenetics, Computational phylogenetics, Domestic sheep, Ovis, Mouflon, Castlemilk Moorit, Urial


Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) were not known to live on Tiburón Island, the largest island in the Gulf of California and Mexico, prior to the surprisingly successful introduction of 20 individuals as a conservation measure in 1975. Today, a stable island population of ∼500 sheep supports limited big game hunting and restocking of depleted areas on the Mexican mainland. We discovered fossil dung morphologically similar to that of bighorn sheep in a dung mat deposit from Mojet Cave, in the mountains of Tiburón Island. To determine the origin of this cave deposit we compared pellet shape to fecal pellets of other large mammals, and extracted DNA to sequence mitochondrial DNA fragments at the 12S ribosomal RNA and control regions. The fossil dung was 14C-dated to 1476-1632 calendar years before present and was confirmed as bighorn sheep by morphological and ancient DNA (aDNA) analysis. 12S sequences closely or exactly matched known bighorn sheep sequences; control region sequences exactly matched a haplotype described in desert bighorn sheep populations in southwest Arizona and southern California and showed subtle differentiation from the extant Tiburón population. Native desert bighorn sheep previously colonized this land-bridge island, most likely during the Pleistocene, when lower sea levels connected Tiburón to the mainland. They were extirpated sometime in the last ∼1500 years, probably due to inherent dynamics of isolated populations, prolonged drought, and (or) human overkill. The reintroduced population is vulnerable to similar extinction risks. The discovery presented here refutes conventional wisdom that bighorn sheep are not native to Tiburón Island, and establishes its recent introduction as an example of unintentional rewilding, defined here as the introduction of a species without knowledge that it was once native and has since gone locally extinct.

Concepts: DNA, Extinction, Ovis, Mouflon, Bighorn Sheep, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Snow sheep, Local extinction


The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of β-lactamase producing or fluoroquinolone-resistant members of the family Enterobacteriaceae in European mouflons (Ovis orientalis musimon). The mouflon samples originated from nasal and perineal swabs and/or organ samples in cases of a suspected infection. Only one of the 32 mouflons was tested positive for the presence of Enterobacteriaceae that displayed either an ESBL/AmpC phenotype or were resistant to ciprofloxacin. The positively tested swab originated from a sample of the jejunal mucosa of a four-year old female mouflon. Two different colony morphotypes were identified as Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. These isolates were phenotypically and genotypically characterized in detail by a polyphasic approach. Both isolates were multi-drug resistant. The E. coli isolate belonged to the phylogenetic group B1 and sequence type (ST) 744 and harboured the β-lactamase genes blaCTX-M-15 and blaOXA-1. The K. pneumoniae, identified as ST11, harboured the β-lactamase genes blaSHV-11, blaOXA-1, and blaDHA-1 as well as the plasmid-mediated quinolone resistance (PMQR) gene qnrB55. The present study demonstrates that wild animals can acquire human-derived resistance determinants and such findings may indicate environmental pollution with resistance determinants from other sources.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Antibiotic resistance, Escherichia coli, Enterobacteriaceae, Enterobacteria, Ovis, Mouflon


Arid climates have unpredictable precipitation patterns, and wildlife managers often provide supplemental water to help desert ungulates endure the hottest, driest periods. When surface water is unavailable, the only source of water for ungulates comes from the forage they consume, and they must make resourceful foraging decisions to meet their requirements. We compared two desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) populations in Arizona, USA: a treatment population with supplemental water removed during treatment, and a control population. We examined whether sheep altered their seasonal diets without supplemental water. We calculated water and nutrient intake and metabolic water production from dry matter intake and forage moisture and nitrogen content, to determine whether sheep could meet their seasonal daily water and nutrient requirements solely from forage. Diets of sheep were higher in protein (all seasons) and moisture (autumn and winter) during treatment compared to pretreatment. During treatment, sheep diet composition was similar between the treatment and control populations, which suggests, under the climatic conditions of this study, water removal did not influence sheep diets. We estimated that under drought conditions, without any surface water available (although small ephemeral potholes would contain water after rains), female and male sheep would be unable to meet their daily water requirements in all seasons, except winter, when reproductive females had a nitrogen deficit. We determined that sheep could achieve water and nutrient balances in all seasons by shifting their total diet proportions by 8-55% from lower to higher moisture and nitrogen forage species. We elucidate how seasonal forage quality and foraging decisions by desert ungulates allow them to cope with their xeric and uncertain environment, and suggest that, with the forage conditions observed in our study area during this study period, providing supplemental water during water-stressed periods may not be necessary for desert bighorn sheep.

Concepts: Water, Earth, Climate, Ovis, Mammals of the United States, Mouflon, Bighorn Sheep, Desert Bighorn Sheep


The altitudinal shifts of many montane populations are lagging behind climate change. Understanding habitual, daily behavioural rhythms, and their climatic and environmental influences, could shed light on the constraints on long-term upslope range-shifts. In addition, behavioural rhythms can be affected by interspecific interactions, which can ameliorate or exacerbate climate-driven effects on ecology. Here, we investigate the relative influences of ambient temperature and an interaction with domestic sheep (Ovis aries) on the altitude use and activity budgets of a mountain ungulate, the Alpine chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra). Chamois moved upslope when it was hotter but this effect was modest compared to that of the presence of sheep, to which they reacted by moving 89-103 m upslope, into an entirely novel altitudinal range. Across the European Alps, a range-shift of this magnitude corresponds to a 46% decrease in the availability of suitable foraging habitat. This highlights the importance of understanding how factors such as competition and disturbance shape a given species' realised niche when predicting potential future responses to change. Furthermore, it exposes the potential for manipulations of species interactions to ameliorate the impacts of climate change, in this case by the careful management of livestock. Such manipulations could be particularly appropriate for species where competition or disturbance already strongly restricts their available niche. Our results also reveal the potential role of behavioural flexibility in responses to climate change. Chamois reduced their activity when it was warmer, which could explain their modest altitudinal migrations. Considering this behavioural flexibility, our model predicts a small 15-30 m upslope shift by 2100 in response to climate change, less than 4% of the altitudinal shift that would be predicted using a traditional species distribution model-type approach (SDM), which assumes that species' behaviour remains unchanged as climate changes. Behavioural modifications could strongly affect how species respond to a changing climate.

Concepts: Climate, Climate change, Livestock, Chamois, Domestic sheep, Ovis, Alps, Mouflon


Past glaciation events have played a major role in shaping the genetic diversity and distribution of wild sheep in North America. The advancement of glaciers can isolate populations in ice-free refugia, where they can survive until the recession of ice sheets. The major Beringian refugium is thought to have held thinhorn sheep (Ovis dalli) populations during times of glacial advance. While isolation in the major refugium can account for much of the genetic and morphological diversity seen in extant thinhorn sheep populations, mounting evidence suggests the persistence of populations in smaller minor refugia. We investigated the refugial origins of thinhorn sheep using ~10 000 SNPs obtained via a cross-species application of the domestic sheep ovine HD BeadChip to genotype 52 thinhorn sheep and five bighorn sheep (O. canadensis) samples. Phylogenetic inference revealed a distinct lineage of thinhorn sheep inhabiting British Columbia, which is consistent with the survival of a group of thinhorn sheep in a minor refugium separate from the Beringian refugium. Isolation in separate glacial refugia probably mediated the evolution of the two thinhorn sheep subspecies, the white Dall’s sheep (O. d. dalli), which persisted in Beringia, and the dark Stone’s sheep (O. d. stonei), which utilized the minor refugium. We also found the first genetic evidence for admixture between sheep from different glacial refugia in south-central Yukon as a consequence of post glacial expansion and recolonization. These results show that glaciation events can have a major role in the evolution of species inhabiting previously glaciated habitats and the need to look beyond established refugia when examining the evolutionary history of such species.

Concepts: Evolution, Glacier, Domestic sheep, Ovis, Mouflon, Dall Sheep