Population variation reveals independent selection toward small body size in Chinese debao pony

Adiljan Kader, Yan Li, Kunzhe Dong, David M. Irwin, Qianjun Zhao, Xiaohong He, Jianfeng Liu, Yabin Pu, Neena Amatya Gorkhali, Xuexue Liu, Lin Jiang, Xiangchen Li, Weijun Guan, Yaping Zhang, Dong Dong Wu, Yuehui Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Body size, one of the most important quantitative traits under evolutionary scrutiny, varies considerably among species and among populations within species. Revealing the genetic basis underlying this variation is very important, particularly in humans where there is a close relationship with diseases and in domestic animals as the selective patterns are associated with improvements in production traits. The Debao pony is a horse breed with small body size that is unique to China; however, it is unknown whether the size-related candidate genes identified in Western breeds also account for the small body size of the Debao pony. Here, we compared individual horses from the Debao population with other two Chinese horse populations using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified with the Equine SNP 65 Bead Chip. The previously reported size-related candidate gene HMGA2 showed a significant signature for selection, consistent with its role observed in human populations. More interestingly, we found a candidate gene TBX3, which had not been observed in previous studies on horse body size that displayed the highest differentiation and most significant association, and thus likely is the dominating factor for the small stature of the Debao pony. Further comparison between the Debao pony and other breeds of horses from around the world demonstrated that TBX3 was selected independently in the Debao pony, suggesting that there were multiple origins of small stature in the horse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalGenome Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Association
  • Di
  • Genetic differentiation
  • Selective signature
  • TBX3
  • XP-EHH

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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