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Morphological and microsatellite DNA diversity of Nigerian indigenous sheep

Brilliant O Agaviezor123, Sunday O Peters134, Mufliat A Adefenwa35, Abdulmojeed Yakubu36, Olufunmilayo A Adebambo1, Michael O Ozoje1, Christian ON Ikeobi1, Matthew Wheto1, Oyeyemi O Ajayi1, Samuel A Amusan1, Oludotun J Ekundayo1, Timothy M Sanni1, Moses Okpeku7, Gbolabo O Onasanya1, Marcos De Donato3, Babatunde M Ilori1, Kadir Kizilkaya8 and Ikhide G Imumorin3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria

2 Department of Animal Science and Fisheries, University of Port Harcourt, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

3 Dept of Animal Science, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

4 Dept of Animal Science, Berry College, Mount Berry, GA 30149, USA

5 Department of Cell Biology and Genetics, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria

6 Department of Animal Science, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Shabu-Lafia Campus, Lafia, Nigeria

7 Dept of Livestock Production, Niger Delta University, Amasomma, Bayelsa State, Nigeria

8 Department of Animal Science, Adnan Menderes University, Aydin 09100, Turkey

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Journal of Animal Science and Biotechnology 2012, 3:38  doi:10.1186/2049-1891-3-38

Published: 24 November 2012



Sheep is important in the socio-economic lives of people around the world. It is estimated that more than half of our once common livestock breeds are now endangered. Since genetic characterization of Nigerian sheep is still lacking, we analyzed ten morphological traits on 402 animals and 15 microsatellite DNA markers in 384 animals of the 4 Nigerian sheep breeds to better understand genetic diversity for breeding management and germplasm conservation.


Morphological traits of Uda and Balami were significantly (P < 0.05) higher than Yankasa, which were both higher than West African Dwarf (WAD) sheep. Stepwise discriminant analysis showed tail length, rump height, chest girth, ear length and chest depth as the most discriminating variables for classification. Mahalanobis distances show the least differentiation between Uda and Balami and the largest between WAD and Balami sheep. While 93.3% of WAD sheep were correctly assigned to their source genetic group, 63.9% of Yankasa, 61.2% of Balami and 45.2% of Uda were classified correctly by nearest neighbour discriminant analysis. The overall high Polymorphism Information Content (PIC) of all microsatellite markers ranged from 0.751 to 0.927 supporting their use in genetic characterization. Expected heterozygosity was high for all loci (0.783 to 0.93). Mean heterozygote deficiency across all populations (0.171 to 0.534) possibly indicate significant inbreeding (P < 0.05). Mean values for FST, FIT and FIS statistics across all loci were 0.088, 0.394 and 0.336 respectively. Yankasa and Balami are the most closely related breeds (DA = 0.184) while WAD and Balami are the farthest apart breeds (DA = 0.665), which is coincident with distance based on morphological analysis and population structure assessed by STRUCTURE.


These results suggest that within-breed genetic variation in Nigerian sheep is higher than between-breeds and may be a valuable tool for genetic improvement and conservation. The higher genetic variability in Yankasa suggests the presence of unique ancestral alleles reflecting the presence of certain functional genes which may result in better adaptability in more agro-ecological zones of Nigeria. These genetic characteristics are potentially useful in planning improvement and conservation strategies in Nigerian indigenous sheep.

Discriminant analysis; Genetic distance; Microsatellite DNA; Morphological traits; Nigerian sheep