OMIA:000985-9940 : Teat / nipple, number in Ovis aries (sheep)

In other species: pig , llama , taurine cattle , goat , rabbit , alpaca

Categories: Endocrine / exocrine gland phene (incl mammary gland)

Links to possible relevant human trait(s) and/or gene(s) in OMIM: 163700 (trait)

Mendelian trait/disorder: no

Mode of inheritance: Multifactorial

Considered a defect: no

Key variant known: no

Cross-species summary: Also known as supernumerary teats, multi-nippled, polymastia and hyperthelia

History: Alexander Graeme Bell (1898, 1904, 1912, 1923), of telephone fame, developed by selection a strain of sheep in which most ewes had two to four additional teats. After the death of Bell and his wife, a ram and some ewes from his flock were obtained by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station. In 1941, the flock was transferred to the United States Morgan Horse Farm, Middlebury, Vermont. The results of Bell and his wife were summarised by Castle (1924). All available data from the Bells and from the subsequent research in New Hampshire and Vermont were summarised by Phillips et al. (1946), who reported estimates of the heritability of teat number ranging from 14% to 26%, consistent with the substantial response to selection achieved by the Bells. Phillips et al. (1946) concluded: "The results . . . indicate that the incidence of the multinipple trait in sheep can be readily affected by selection of sires and dams. There is little indication, however, that this trait has practical value in sheep husbandry, either by association with high fertility or increased milk production. In most flocks this character can safely be disregarded in selection but if the incidence of multinippled individuals becomes high enough to be objectionable it should be possible to bring it under control 'rather quickly by the use of rams with only two rudimentary nipples." A more recent review of Bell's considerable contributions to science is provided by Stansfield (2005). Among many other things, Bell was very interested in the inheritance of deafness (both his mother and his wife were deaf), which led him to write two papers concerning deaf white cats (see OMIA 000259-9685). As it turns out, in these papers deaf white cats are mentioned only in passing; in both reports, Bell is primarily concerned with deafness and skin colour in humans.

Mapping: Peng et al. 2015) "conducted the first GWAS of the supernumerary nipple phenotype in Wadi sheep, a native Chinese sheep breed, based on Ovine Infinium HD SNP BeadChip genotypes in a total of 144 ewes (75 cases with four teats, including two normal and two supernumerary teats, and 69 control cases with two teats). We detected 63 significant SNPs at the chromosome-wise threshold. Additionally, one candidate region (chr1: 170.723-170.734 Mb) was identified by haplotype-based association tests, with one SNP (rs413490006) surrounding functional genes BBX and CD47 on chromosome 1 being commonly identified as significant by the two mentioned analyses." Zhao et al. (2022): " ... a genome-wide association study was used to identify genetic markers and genes related to the number of teats in the Hu sheep population, a native Chinese sheep breed. ... We also performed quantitative real-time PCR testing of ... identified [positional] candidate genes, identifying three genes with significantly different expression. Our study suggested that the LHFP, DPYSL2, and TDP-43 genes may be related to the number of teats in sheep."

Breeds: Hu, China (Sheep) (VBO_0015749), Wadi, China (Sheep) (VBO_0015770).
Breeds in which the phene has been documented. (If a likely causal variant has been documented for the phene, see the variant table breeds in which the variant has been reported).

Cite this entry

Nicholas, F. W., Tammen, I., & Sydney Informatics Hub. (2022). OMIA:000985-9940: Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA) [dataset].


Note: the references are listed in reverse chronological order (from the most recent year to the earliest year), and alphabetically by first author within a year.

2023 Xie, S., Isaacs, K., Becker, G., Murdoch, B.M. :
A computational framework for improving genetic variants identification from 5,061 sheep sequencing data. J Anim Sci Biotechnol 14:127, 2023. Pubmed reference: 37779189. DOI: 10.1186/s40104-023-00923-3.
2022 Zhao, Y., Pu, Y., Liang, B., Bai, T., Liu, Y., Jiang, L., Ma, Y. :
A study using single-locus and multi-locus genome-wide association study to identify genes associated with teat number in Hu sheep. Anim Genet 53:203-211, 2022. Pubmed reference: 35040155. DOI: 10.1111/age.13169.
2021 Salehian-Dehkordi, H., Xu, Y.X., Xu, S.S., Li, X., Luo, L.Y., Liu, Y.J., Wang, D.F., Cao, Y.H., Shen, M., Gao, L., Chen, Z.H., Glessner, J.T., Lenstra, J.A., Esmailizadeh, A., Li, M.H., Lv, F.H. :
Genome-wide detection of copy number variations and their association with distinct phenotypes in the world's sheep. Front Genet 12:670582, 2021. Pubmed reference: 34093663. DOI: 10.3389/fgene.2021.670582.
2020 Zhao, F., Deng, T., Shi, L., Wang, W., Zhang, Q., Du, L., Wang, L. :
Genomic scan for selection signature reveals fat deposition in Chinese indigenous sheep with extreme tail types. Animals (Basel) 10:773, 2020. Pubmed reference: 32365604. DOI: 10.3390/ani10050773.
2017 Peng, W.F., Xu, S.S., Ren, X., Lv, F.H., Xie, X.L., Zhao, Y.X., Zhang, M., Shen, Z.Q., Ren, Y.L., Gao, L., Shen, M., Kantanen, J., Li, M.H. :
A genome-wide association study reveals candidate genes for the supernumerary nipple phenotype in sheep (Ovis aries). Anim Genet 48:570-579, 2017. Pubmed reference: 28703336. DOI: 10.1111/age.12575.
2005 Stansfield, W.D. :
The Bell family legacies. J Hered 96:1-3, 2005. Pubmed reference: 15618310. DOI: 10.1093/jhered/esi007.
1988 Davies, D.A.R. :
Breeding sheep with 4 teats in a flock in Devon, England. Journal of Agricultural Science in Finland 60:620-621 , 1988.
1985 Kyle, B., Hanrahan, J. P. :
Supernumerary teats in sheep. Animal production. Report from Grange/Dunsinea, Moorepark and Western Research centres. Research report 1985. :12-13, 1985.
1982 Oppong, E.N., Gumedze, J.S. :
Supernumerary teats in Ghanaian livestock. I. Sheep and goats. Beitr Trop Landwirtsch Veterinarmed 20:63-7, 1982. Pubmed reference: 7092787.
1973 Yadrichev, V. I., Mosyagina, O. A., Bobarykin, N. D. :
Vzaimosvyaz' mezhdu mnogososkovost'yu i produktivnymi kachestvami matok romanovskoi porody [The relationship between teat number and production traits in Romanov ewes]. Trudy Kostromskogo Sel'skokhozyaistvennogo Instituta "Karavaevo" 43:75-78, 1973.
1970 Poonacha, K.B., Prabhu, S.S. :
Variation in multiple nipples in some breeds and crosses of Indian sheep. Indian Journal of Animal Sciences 40:650-660, 1970.
1958 Terrill, C.E. :
50 years of progress in sheep breeding. Journal of Animal Science 17:944-959 , 1958.
1946 Phillips, R.W., Schott, R.G., Spencer, D.A. :
The multinipple trait in sheep. J Hered 37:19-26, 1946. Pubmed reference: 21015949. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.jhered.a105528.
1945 Phillips, R.W., Schott, R.G., Spencer, D.A. :
The genetics, physiology, and economic importance of the multinipple trait in sheep. US Department of Agriculture Technical Bulletin 1909:1-16, 1945.
Vainikainen, V. :
On the heritability of supernumerary nipples in Finnish home-bred sheep. Maataloustieteellinen Aikakauskirja 17:11-18, 1945.
1934 Miller, H.G. :
Four-Nippled Sheep. Scottish Journal of Agriculture 17:79-85, 1934.
1933 Ritzman, E.T. :
The Multinipple Trait in Sheep and its Inheritance. New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin 53:32 pp, 1933.
1932 Popova, E.T., Kardymovich, E.I. :
[Polymastia, its Manifestation, Inheritance and Association with Fertility and Milk Yield.] Genetics of Sheep :63-91, 1932.
1931 Wassin, B. :
Linkage studies in sheep Journal of Heredity 22:9-13, 1931.
1925 Roberts, J.A.F., Crew, F.A.E. :
The genetics of the sheep Bibliographia Genetica 2:263-286, 1925.
1924 Castle, W.E. :
The genetics of multi-nippled sheep - An analysis of the sheep-breeding experiments of Dr. and Mrs Alexander Graham Bell at Beinn Bhreagh, NS Journal of Heredity 15:75-85, 1924.
1923 Bell, A.G., Bell, M.G. :
Saving the six-nippled breed: Mr. Bell's Last Contribution to Science, with An Introduction by Mrs. Bell Journal of Heredity 14:99-111, 1923.
1912 Bell, A.G. :
Sheep-breeding experiments on Beinn Bhreagh. Science 36:378-84, 1912. Pubmed reference: 17793216. DOI: 10.1126/science.36.925.378.
1904 Bell, A.G. :
The multi-nippled sheep of Beinn Bhreagh. Science 19:767-8, 1904. Pubmed reference: 17818460. DOI: 10.1126/science.19.489.767-b.
Bell, A.G. :
The multi-nippled sheep of Beinn Bhreagh. Science 19:963-4, 1904. Pubmed reference: 17753682. DOI: 10.1126/science.19.495.963.
1898 Bell, A.G. :
On the development by selection of supernumerary mammae in sheep Science 9:6337-6339, 1898.

Edit History

  • Created by Frank Nicholas on 06 Sep 2005
  • Changed by Frank Nicholas on 12 Dec 2012
  • Changed by Frank Nicholas on 13 Dec 2012
  • Changed by Imke Tammen2 on 20 Jan 2022