Analyses of Pig Genomes Provide Insight into Porcine Demography and Evolution

Analysis of the genome of several types of pig reveals a split between European and Asian wild boars around one million years ago, according to a global collaboration of researchers in the field. They say that the genome also provides a valuable resource, enabling more effective use of pigs in both agriculture and biomedical research in the future.
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For 10,000 years, pigs and humans have shared a close and complex relationship. From domestication to modern breeding practices, humans have shaped the genomes of domestic pigs.

Professor Martien Groenen of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a multitude of co-authors from more than 50 institutes across the world have presented in the journal, Nature, the assembly and analysis of the genome sequence of a female domestic Duroc pig (Sus scrofa) and a comparison with the genomes of wild and domestic pigs from Europe and Asia. Wild pigs emerged in South East Asia and subsequently spread across Eurasia.

Their results reveal a deep phylogenetic split between European and Asian wild boars around one million years ago, and a selective sweep analysis indicates selection on genes involved in RNA processing and regulation.

Genes associated with immune response and olfaction exhibit fast evolution, the researchers found. Pigs have the largest repertoire of functional olfactory receptor genes, reflecting the importance of smell in this scavenging animal.

Professor Groenen and co-authors say that the pig genome sequence provides an important resource for further improvements of this important livestock species, and the identification of many putative disease-causing variants extends the potential of the pig as a biomedical model.


Groenen M.A.M., A.L. Archibald, H. Uenishi et al. 2012. Analyses of pig genomes provide insight into porcine demography and evolution. Nature, 491:393–398 (15 November 2012). doi:10.1038/nature11622

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December 2012
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