Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Demographic history and gene flow during silkworm domestication

Shao-Yu Yang1, Min-Jin Han2, Li-Fang Kang2, Zi-Wen Li1, Yi-Hong Shen1* and Ze Zhang2

Author Affiliations

1 State Key Laboratory of Silkworm Genome Biology, The Key Sericultural Laboratory of Agricultural Ministry, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China

2 Laboratory of Evolutionary and Functional Genomics, School of Life Sciences, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, China

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2014, 14:185  doi:10.1186/s12862-014-0185-0

Published: 14 August 2014



Gene flow plays an important role in domestication history of domesticated species. However, little is known about the demographic history of domesticated silkworm involving gene flow with its wild relative.


In this study, four model-based evolutionary scenarios to describe the demographic history of B. mori were hypothesized. Using Approximate Bayesian Computation method and DNA sequence data from 29 nuclear loci, we found that the gene flow at bottleneck model is the most likely scenario for silkworm domestication. The starting time of silkworm domestication was estimated to be approximate 7,500 years ago; the time of domestication termination was 3,984 years ago. Using coalescent simulation analysis, we also found that bi-directional gene flow occurred during silkworm domestication.


Estimates of silkworm domestication time are nearly consistent with the archeological evidence and our previous results. Importantly, we found that the bi-directional gene flow might occur during silkworm domestication. Our findings add a dimension to highlight the important role of gene flow in domestication of crops and animals.

Coalescent simulation; Approximate Bayesian computation; Gene flow; Bombyx mori