Ancient European pigs came from the Near-East 8,000 years ago before breeding with wild boar over the next three millennia
Oxford School of Archaeology researchers studied DNA from 2,000 ancient pigs
First domesticated pigs in Europe genetically resembled Near Eastern wild boar
But over 3,000 years ancient domestic pigs hybridised with European wild boar
Happened to such an extent that they lost almost all their near eastern ancestry
By Tim Collins For Mailonline (UK)
12 August 2019
European pigs were first domesticated in the Near East but were then assimilated by our wild boar, a new study reveals.
Scientists were puzzled by the 'pig paradox' where the archaeological record shows domesticated pigs coming to Europe from the Near East around 8,000 years ago.
However, the modern domestic pig has barely any ancestry from the Near East variety and instead resembles the wild European boar.
Experts found that ancient pigs, descended from Near Eastern wild boar, bred with their European cousins to such an extent that they lost their eastern heritage.
Researchers led by Oxford's School of Archaeology sequenced DNA from more than 2,000 ancient pigs.
They then looked at genomes from 63 archaeological pigs collected across the Near East and Europe over the last 10,000 years to unravel the mystery.
The first domesticated pigs in Europe genetically resembled Near Eastern wild boar.
But, over the next 3,000 years, ancient domestic pigs hybridised with European wild boar to such an extent that they lost almost all their near eastern ancestry.
In fact the only outward sign of their ancestors today is the black or black and white spotted coat colours found in some breeds.
Dr Laurent Frantz, lead author of the study at Queen Mary University of London, said: '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.
'We are all taught that the big change was the initial process of domestication, but our data suggests that almost none of the human-selection over the first 2,500 years of pig domestication has been important in the development of modern European commercial pigs.'
Professor Greger Larson, director of the palaeogenomics & bio-archaeology research network at Oxford and senior author of the study, said: