Phenotype and animal domestication: A study of dental variation between domestic, wild, captive, hybrid and insular Sus scrofa

Allowen Evin, Keith Dobney, Renate Schafberg, Joseph Owen, Una Vidarsdottir, Greger Larson, Thomas Cucchi

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Abstract

Background

Identifying the phenotypic responses to domestication remains a long-standing and important question for researchers studying its early history. The great diversity in domestic animals and plants that exists today bears testament to the profound changes that domestication has induced in their ancestral wild forms over the last millennia. Domestication is a complex evolutionary process in which wild organisms are moved to new anthropogenic environments. Although modern genetics are significantly improving our understanding of domestication and breed formation, little is still known about the associated morphological changes linked to the process itself. In order to explore phenotypic variation induced by different levels of human control, we analysed the diversity of dental size, shape and allometry in modern free-living and captive wild, wild x domestic hybrid, domestic and insular Sus scrofa populations. 

Results

We show that domestication has created completely new dental phenotypes not found in wild boar (although the amount of variation amongst domestic pigs does not exceed that found in the wild). Wild boar tooth shape also appears to be biogeographically structured, likely the result of post-glacial recolonisation history. Furthermore, distinct dental phenotypes were also observed among domestic breeds, probably the result of differing types and intensity of past and present husbandry practices. Captivity also appears to impact tooth shape. Wild x domestic hybrids possess second molars that are strictly intermediate in shape between wild boar and domestic pigs (third molars, however, showing greater shape similarity with wild boar) while their size is more similar to domestic pigs. The dental phenotypes of insular Sus scrofa populations found on Corsica and Sardinia today (originally introduced by Neolithic settlers to the islands) can be explained either by feralization of the original introduced domestic swine or that the founding population maintained a wild boar phenotype through time.

Conclusions 

Domestication has driven significant phenotypic diversification in Sus scrofa. Captivity (environmental control), hybridization (genome admixture), and introduction to islands all correspond to differing levels of human control and may be considered different stages of the domestication process. The relatively well-known genetic evolutionary history of pigs shows a similar complexity at the phenotypic level.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Evolutionary Biology
Volume15
Early online date4 Feb 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2015

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Keywords

  • teeth
  • molars
  • geometric morphometrics
  • biogeography
  • artificial selection
  • natural selection

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