Today's pigs in China have a pedigree dating back at least 8,000 years to some of the first domesticated swine, scientists say. The finding provides a more detailed picture about the history of animal husbandry and shows that pigs may have been tamed in places archaeologists had never before guessed.
The study, published online Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is part of an effort to chart the movement of domesticated pigs by comparing DNA samples from the animals across the globe. Tracking the swine could shed light on human migration over the last several millenniums, researchers said.
Researchers from Britain, Sweden, China and the United States compared 18 samples of DNA extracted from ancient swine bones collected along China's Yellow River to more than 1,500 modern pig specimens culled from museums, hunters' private collections and farms. The scientists analyzed a specific kind of DNA called mitochondrial DNA, which is passed down maternally.
They found that the stock of modern-day pigs in Asia matched that of ancient pigs in the same region, demonstrating that the modern animals had ancient roots in the region, rather than having being imported from elsewhere more recently.