The SNP-based profiling of Montecristo feral goat populations reveals a history of isolation, bottlenecks, and the effects of management.
The Montecristo wild goat is an endangered feral population that has been on the homonymous island in the Tuscan Archipelago since ancient times. The origins of Montecristo goats are still debated, with authors dating their introduction either back to Neolithic times or between the 6th and 13th century of the Common Era. To investigate the evolutionary history and relationships of this population we assembled a 50K SNP dataset including 55 Mediterranean breeds and two nuclei of Montecristo goats sampled on the island and from an ex situ conservation project. Diversity levels, gene flow, population structure, and genetic relationships were assessed through multiple approaches. The insular population scored the lowest values of both observed and expected heterozygosity, highlighting reduced genetic variation, while the ex situ nucleus highlighted a less severe reduction. Multivariate statistics, network, and population structure analyses clearly separated the insular nucleus from all other breeds, including the population of Montecristo goats from the mainland. Moreover, admixture and gene flow analyses pinpointed possible genetic inputs received by the two Montecristo goat nuclei from different sources, while Runs of Homozygosity (ROHs) indicated an ancient bottleneck/founder effect in the insular population and recent extensive inbreeding in the ex situ one. Overall, our results suggest that Montecristo goats experienced several demographic fluctuations combined with admixture events over time and highlighted a noticeable differentiation between the two nuclei.