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The standard story told about domesticating wild animals goes something like this:humansselected individuals with a desired trait—docility, for example and bred those animals togetherto produce offspring even more docile than their parents.
Eventually the breeders created a genetic bottleneck that separated domestic animals fromtheir wild relatives.
And they brought their livestock along as they spread across Europe and Asia.
But now a group of scientists has demonstrated that the story is far too tidy—at least when itcomes to pigs.
Pigs were domesticated from wild boar at least twice, in Anatolia in present day Turkey and inthe Mekong Valley in China, both about 9,000 years ago.
They arrived in Europe about 7,500 years ago.
For this study, researchers focused on European pigs.
They evaluated more than 600 genomes from European and Asian wild boars and domesticatedpigs.
And they found that, in Europe, the story of a bottleneck separating domestic from wildanimals does not fit the genetic data.
Rather, the model that does fit indicates that there was a frequent flow of genes from wildEuropean boars into the domestic population.
In other words, boars and pigs kept finding ways to get together.
The most likely scenario for the development of the modern pig genome includes gene flowfrom some species of European wild boars that are now extinct.
But their genes live on, on the farm.
The research is in the journal Nature Genetics.
The authors hope this study will prompt the use of genetics to evaluate the domesticationhistory for other species, including dogs and horses.
They say the incorporation of contemporary and ancient DNA into these modeling scenarioswill help elucidate the timing of the domestication of plants and animals and, “ultimatelysubstantially enhance knowledge of this fascinating evolutionary process.”