The silkworm, Bombyx mori, played an important role in the old Silk Road that connected ancient Asia and Europe. However, to date, there have been few studies of the origins and domestication of this species using molecular methods. In this study, DNA sequences of mitochondrial and nuclear loci were used to infer the phylogeny and evolutionary history of the domesticated silkworm and its relatives. All of the phylogenetic analyses indicated a close relationship between the domesticated silkworm and the Chinese wild silkworm. Domestication was estimated to have occurred about 4100 years ago (ya), and the radiation of the different geographic strains of B. mori about 2000 ya. The Chinese wild silkworm and the Japanese wild silkworm split about 23600 ya. These estimates are in good agreement with the fossil evidence and historical records. In addition, we show that the domesticated silkworm experienced a population expansion around 1000 ya. The divergence times and the population dynamics of silkworms presented in this study will be useful for studies of lepidopteran phylogenetics, in the genetic analysis of domestic animals, and for understanding the spread of human civilizations.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Environmental Science(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)