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Keywords:

  • French Rambouillet;
  • Spanish Merino;
  • blood groups;
  • biochemical polymorphism;
  • genetic divergence;
  • genetic drift

Summary. Rambouillet sheep originating from Spanish Merino have been maintained in France as a small and closed flock since their importation. After 190 years of independent evolution, the flock has markedly differentiated from its Spanish parental population. The observed differences between them were characterized by the fixation in Rambouillet of the Mb and F30 alleles, which occurred in Spanish Merino with frequencies of 0.90 and 0.80 respectively (at two distinct blood group loci M and F30) and by the absence in Rambouillet of other alleles or phenogroups (at the Tf and the A, B, C blood group loci) which were observed in Spanish Merino with frequencies ranging from 0.10 to 0.28. On the basis of their phenotypic distributions at 11 blood polymorphic loci, the two populations differed significantly from each other (total x2 values = 352.62, 23 df, P < 0.001). By comparing the observed magnitude of gene frequency differences between Rambouillet and Spanish Merino with the estimate of inbreeding coefficient for Rambouillet obtained from pedigrees, it appeared that the observed genetic differences could be attributed to the evolutionary change due to random drift in the small and closed flock of Rambouillet.