Shades of grey and brown are a dominant component in mammal coat colours, representing a fundamental trait involved in a great number of processes including cryptism, sexual selection and signalling. The genetic mechanisms of the grey colouration in mammals are very complex and controlled by hundreds of genes whose effects and interactions are still largely unclear. In this study, we adopted a robust multi-cohort Fst outlier approach based on pairwise contrasts between seven grey indicine cattle breeds and both taurine and indicine non-grey cattle breeds in order to find genomic regions potentially related to the grey colouration. On the basis of three main drawn settings, built in order to control both the effect of the sample size and the genetic structure, we have identified some signals common to those obtained in a previous work employing only taurine cattle. In particular, using the top 1% Fst approach, we detected a candidate region (22.6–23.8 megabases) on chromosome 14 in which genes related to pigmentation have been already documented. In addition, when we constructed a phylogenetic tree using the significant markers identified in this study and including also the genotyping data at these loci of both the grey taurine and the extinct wild auroch, we found a topological repartition consistent with breed colour pattern rather than with the known bovine evolutionary history. Thus, on the basis of this evidence, together with the geographical distribution of the current taurine grey cattle, an ancestral indicine origin for the grey phenotype would seem to be a conceivable interpretation. In this context, a higher thermo-tolerance and less UV-induced damage of the grey phenotype might have favoured the retention of advantageous genes into the taurine genome during the post-Neolithic human-mediated cattle expansions.
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