Pompeii’s mystery horse is actually a donkey

November 4th, 2010 - 12:09 pm ICT by ANI  

Pompeii, Nov 04 (ANI): The strange breed of ‘horse’ that was discovered in 2004, at Pompeii, was actually a donkey, Cambridge University researchers have found.

In 2004 when academics unearthed skeletons found at a house in the ancient Roman town that was covered in ashes in 79 AD, they thought it belonged to an extinct breed of horse, reports Softpedia.

The mistake was made at the DNA analysis, and Susan Gurney and Peter Forster of the University of Cambridge, realized the mistake when they revisited the study.

Six years ago, the skeletons of equids having belonged to a rich Roman household in Pompeii were analysed.

There were found in the stables of a probably wealthy politician.

They were very well preserved by the volcanic ash that covered Pompeii and Herculaneum, when Mount Vesuvius erupted.

The team then analysed the mitochondrial DNA sequences (mtDNA) of each of the horses, and found that one of them had a mysterious type of DNA, that was no longer found today, probably an unknown breed of horse, which had disappeared.

Gurney examined the research and found that there was an accidental combination of a donkey mDNA sequence with that of a horse.

She explained that the first 177 nucleotides matched existing patterns of donkey, and the next 193 nucleotides matched those of an existing breed of horse.

“Looking at the research with hindsight, it’s possible to recognize two separate strands of horse and donkey DNA,” she said.

“In addition, the horse DNA that appears to have been inadvertently mixed in with the donkey’s genetic information is the same type as that found in another Herculaneum horse, which might be the source of the mistake,” she added.

The finding was reported in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. (ANI)

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