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Black Pig Preferences

September 19, 2016

Across the globe, humans have selected pigs with genetic mutations for black coats.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Of people and pigs. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the wild, prey species like pigs typically have camouflaged coats to hide from predators.

GREGER LARSON (University of Oxford):

Whereas people tend to select for everything other than camouflage.

HIRSHON:

That’s University of Oxford geneticist Greger Larson, who says across the globe, our ancestors favored pigs with bold black coats. His team reports in Open Science that the descendents of Polynesian pigs brought to Hawai’i 800 years ago have a unique genetic mutation for black.

LARSON:

There were three independent ways that humans have selected for blackness in pigs in Europe, East Asia and Hawai’i, and there might be even more. So, I mean, as soon as these black variants are popping up anywhere, humans go “wow, that’s amazing!”

HIRSHON:

Larson says once black was established, other human-pleasing color patterns were layered on top, giving us the variety of pigs we see today. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard