A first draft of the genome of a domesticated pig has been mapped by an international team of scientists. The achievement, the scientists believe, will lead to insights in agriculture, medicine, conservation and evolution.
A red-haired Duroc pig from a farm at the University of Illinois was used in the experiment, the detailed results of which will be formally announced at a meeting at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England, Monday.
The Duroc is one of five major breeds used in pork production around the world and is one of about 200 breeds of domesticated pigs.
"The pig is a unique animal that is important for food and that is used as an animal model for human disease," said Larry Schook, a University of Illinois professor of biomedical sciences and leader of the sequencing project.
"And because the native wild animals are still in existence, it is a really exciting animal to look at to learn about the genomic effects of domestication," he added.
The draft sequence, which is about 98 percent complete, will allow researchers to pinpoint genes that are useful to pork production or are involved in immunity or other important physiological processes in the pig.
The researchers said their work will enhance breeding practices, offer insight into diseases that afflict pigs and will assist in efforts to preserve the global heritage of rare, endangered and wild pigs.
It also will be important for the study of human health because pigs are very similar to humans in their physiology, behavior and nutritional needs, they added.