New research led by Oxford University and the Queen Mary University of London has resolved a pig paradox. Archaeological evidence has shown that pigs were domesticated in the Near East and as such, modern pigs should resemble Near Eastern wild boar. They do not. Instead, the genetic signatures of modern European domestic pigs resemble European wild boar.
Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study shows how this has happened. Working with more than 100 collaborators, researchers from Oxford’s School of Archaeology sequenced DNA signatures from more than 2,000 ancient pigs including genomes from 63 archaeological pigs collected across the Near East and Europe over the last 10,000 years.
The findings revealed that the first pigs to arrive in Europe alongside farmers 8,000 years ago had clear Near Eastern genetic ancestry. Over the course of the next 3,000 years, however, ancient domestic pigs hybridized with European wild boar to such an extent that they lost almost all their Near Eastern ancestry.