Iberian pig genome remains unchanged after 5 centuries

September 17, 2014

A team of Spanish researchers have obtained the first partial genome sequence of an ancient pig. Extracted from a sixteenth century pig found at the site of the Montsoriu Castle in Girona, the data obtained indicates that this ancient pig is closely related to today's Iberian pig. Researchers also discard the hypothesis that Asian pigs were crossed with modern Iberian pigs.

The study, published in Heredity, sheds new light on evolutionary aspects of pig species, and particularly on that of the Iberian breed, considered to be representative of original European Mediterranean populations. The study was led by Miguel Pérez-Enciso, ICREA researcher at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and at the Centre for Research in Agrigenomics (CRAG). Researchers from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-Pompeu Fabra University) and the National Centre for Genome Analysis (CNAG) also participated in the study.

The sample dates approximately from the years 1520 to 1550 and is previous to the introduction of Asian pigs in Europe, which were later crossed with local European breeds which are the origin of today's international pig species. The sample pig is contemporary to the beginning of America's colonisation.

"Although it is a very fragmented sample, the gene sequence offers very interesting information", Miguel Pérez-Enciso says. "First of all, we know it is not a white pig because it is missing a duplicated KIT gene which would make it this colour. This coincides with the majority of paintings from that period, in which the animal was always painted black or in reddish tones. We were also able to establish that it is very closely related to today's Iberian pig species, and specifically to the 'Lampiño del Guadiana' strain. We could say that the Iberian pig is very similar to the pigs which existed in the sixteenth century and no great changes have been registered in this genome. Therefore, more studies will be needed before we are able to distinguish the modern species from the older ones".

The study indicates that the pig was a domestic pig, given that the sequence presents a series of markers typical of domestic pigs and which are very rare or absent in wild boars (the precursor animals to the domestic pig); moreover, this coincides with the historical registers of the castle, which clearly indicates that pig breeding was an important castle activity. Nevertheless, there is also evidence of occasional crossbreeding between wild boars and ancient pigs, as has happened between wild boars and Iberian pigs.

"This close relation between the Iberian pig, the European boar and the ancient pig confirms, as stated in previous studies, that crossbreeding between the Asian pig and modern Iberian pigs did not exist or was insignificant", Miguel Pérez-Enciso points out.

The study also compared the ancient pig sample with the genome of modern pigs of different breeds, including 'Creole' pigs, which are presumably the descendents of the animals Spanish colonizers brought to America. Researchers demonstrate that this hypothesis is incorrect and that there is very little remaining of those first Spanish animals in today's creole pigs, which were crossbred mainly with international pig breeds.
-end-


Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

Related Genome Articles from Brightsurf:

Genome evolution goes digital
Dr. Alan Herbert from InsideOutBio describes ground-breaking research in a paper published online by Royal Society Open Science.

Breakthrough in genome visualization
Kadir Dede and Dr. Enno Ohlebusch at Ulm University in Germany have devised a method for constructing pan-genome subgraphs at different granularities without having to wait hours and days on end for the software to process the entire genome.

Sturgeon genome sequenced
Sturgeons lived on earth already 300 million years ago and yet their external appearance seems to have undergone very little change.

A sea monster's genome
The giant squid is an elusive giant, but its secrets are about to be revealed.

Deciphering the walnut genome
New research could provide a major boost to the state's growing $1.6 billion walnut industry by making it easier to breed walnut trees better equipped to combat the soil-borne pathogens that now plague many of California's 4,800 growers.

Illuminating the genome
Development of a new molecular visualisation method, RNA-guided endonuclease -- in situ labelling (RGEN-ISL) for the CRISPR/Cas9-mediated labelling of genomic sequences in nuclei and chromosomes.

A genome under influence
References form the basis of our comprehension of the world: they enable us to measure the height of our children or the efficiency of a drug.

How a virus destabilizes the genome
New insights into how Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) induces genome instability and promotes cell proliferation could lead to the development of novel antiviral therapies for KSHV-associated cancers, according to a study published Sept.

Better genome editing
Reich Group researchers develop a more efficient and precise method of in-cell genome editing.

Unlocking the genome
A team led by Prof. Stein Aerts (VIB-KU Leuven) uncovers how access to relevant DNA regions is orchestrated in epithelial cells.

Read More: Genome News and Genome Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.