History classes would have had added flavour had we been told that our great explorers of the past travelled with their pigs. Originally descended from the Eurasian wild boar, present day pig populations in South America and Africa can pride themselves with adventurous ancestors. At the SEB meeting at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Oscar Ramírez from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, will be presenting his work on the formation of European pig breeds and their subsequent dispersion in the New World and Africa through the process of colonization [session A1.12]. Using mitochondrial DNA analysis, Ramírez and coworkers confirmed that modern European pig breeds were domesticated from European wild boar populations. The European and Asian breeds were previously found to have crossbred during the 18-19th centuries, in order to accelerate maturation and fattening in the British breed.
Ramírez now suggests that the South American and African pig populations have descended from pigs brought in by the European colonizers several centuries ago. Peruvian Creole pigs show genetic similarities with Iberian pigs, which were brought in as food supplies by the Spaniards at the time of American colonization. In contrast, Nicaraguan Creole and Cuino mexican breeds are of Chinese origin. On the African continent, the Nigerian and Benin breeds have supposedly been imported by Portuguese settlers, while the Zimbabwean Mukota breed is believed to have been introduced by European and Chinese traders in the 16-17th centuries.
So, the establishment of pig populations indicates historical time points in human migration. All that remains is to do a taste test on our pork chops!
Diana van Gent | alfa
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