Genetic Diversity and Population Structure of the Sheep of Lemnos, Lesvos and Agios Efstratios Islands

By Mediterranean Institute For Nature and Anthropos (MedINA)

Lemnos’ livestock farming is dominated by dairy sheep amounting up to 75% (10,580 LU) of the island’s total LU. Goat and bovine farming follow, contributing to 12% (1,730 LU) and 10% (1,400 LU) of the island’s total LU, respectively. Sheep and goats kept on the island show a remarkably high phenotypic heterogeneity

According to local reports and historical data, an extensive crossing of the local sheep population with the Lesvos sheep took place in the 1960s, with the aim to upgrade milk performance. This crossed population was gradually expanded on the island and maintained for about thirty years when the introduction of other sheep breeds began resulting in new crossings. In a recent survey on 40 farms, performed under the “Terra Lemnia” project, the majority of farmers characterized their animals as crossings between the local and the Lesvos sheep breed. Nevertheless, also purebred animals belonging to the so-called local Lemnos sheep were also reported as well as crossings with the Chios and/or other foreign breeds.

Numerous visits of sheep farms, performed by the AUA team (Ass. Prof. A. Kominakis and Ass. Prof. I. Hadjigeorgiou) confirmed the high phenotypic variability both within and between sheep flocks. This variability was associated with local adaptation to the
individual environmental conditions under which the various flocks are maintained with most distinctive that of the Vigla mountain (Lemnos island). Driven from these observations, an exhaustive sampling and genetic analysis were undertaken aiming,
first to explore the genetic differences between the Lemnos, Lesvos and Agios Efstratios islands and second, to detect population structure of the sheep of the Lemnos island.