The newly sequenced mitochondrial genomes of 107 Asian swamp buffalo (Bubalus bubalis carabensis) allowed the reconstruction of the matrilineal divergence since ∼900 Kya. Phylogenetic trees and Bayesian skyline plots suggest a role of the glacial periods in the demographic history of swamp buffalo. The ancestral swamp-buffalo mitogenome is dated ∼232 ± 35 Kya. Two major macro-lineages diverged during the 2nd Pleistocene Glacial Period (∼200-130 Kya), but most (∼99%) of the current matrilines derive from only two ancestors (SA1′2 and SB) that lived around the Last Glacial Maximum (∼26-19 Kya). During the late Holocene optimum (11-6 Kya) lineages differentiated further, and at least eight matrilines (SA1, SA2, SB1a, SB1b, SB2a, SB2b, SB3 and SB4) were domesticated around 7-3 Kya. Haplotype distributions support an initial domestication process in Southeast Asia, while subsequent captures of wild females probably introduced some additional rare lineages (SA3, SC, SD and SE). Dispersal of domestic buffaloes created local population bottlenecks and founder events that further differentiated haplogroup distributions. A lack of maternal gene flow between neighboring populations apparently maintained the strong phylogeography of the swamp buffalo matrilines, which is the more remarkable because of an almost complete absence of phenotypic differentiation.
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