Wild boar groups from different regions of Europe converge in Poland, as determined by members of the international research team, including scientists from Poland. The results of the research on the genetic diversity of wild boar in Europe have been published in Scientific Reports.
The research (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-88991-1) included scientists from the Mammalian Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Biaaa and Collegium Medicum UMK in Toruń, as well as from research centers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Belarus, Romania and Ukraine .
Wild boars are one of the most common ungulate and widespread species in Europe. It lives in very diverse habitats and can adapt to life in different environmental conditions. However, its origin and genetic diversity in the central-eastern part of the continent are poorly understood. Previous studies have shown that the genetic makeup of this species in a large part of Europe is diverse, that is, not very diverse. Only wild pigs living in the region of Italy and Dagestan were genetically distinct from those living in the rest of the continent, scientists state in a press release sent to PAP.
Their new research, using more accurate genetic data, indicates a greater diversity of wild boars in Europe.
Scientists found this by examining 101 mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences and more than 500 sequences from the mtDNA control region of wild pigs from Central and Eastern Europe. The material collected for the study came from the period leading up to the African Swine Fever (AFS) epidemic, which is now causing a significant decline in the number of this species in Europe. The data obtained were compared with mtDNA sequences of wild boars from other regions.
There are five major mtDNA lines (lines) across the continent, three of which make up the Polish region of contact. Two of these clusters live in Western, Southwestern and Central Europe, and the third, most numerous and genetically diverse range, covers the central, eastern, and southeastern part of the continent. There is very limited scope for the other two blocs, one living in Italy and the other in the Balkans, the study authors reported in a press release sent to PAP.
These scientists showed that most of the wild pigs in our country come from eastern and southeastern Europe, and the greatest genetic diversity was recorded in northern, western and central Poland, that is, in the contact area of three mtDNA groups of wild pigs. The eastern boundary of the range of two mtDNA chains from Western and Southwestern Europe passes through the territory of our country.
Scientists suggest that the distribution of wild boar mtDNA lines in the study area likely correlates with the trends in which wild boars settled in Europe after the retreat of the post-glacier glacier. Based on paleontology data, it is known that wild boars survived the last Ice Age maximum – LGM 18-26 thousand years ago in the area of what is now northern Spain, Portugal, southern France, Italy and the Balkans. Other data, which allow reconstructions of the ranges of different ecosystems, as well as the environmental conditions prevailing in Europe during the last glacial period, show that living conditions suitable for many mammal species, including ungulates, such as deer, also occurred in southern Europe. Eastern, in the Black Sea and the Caucasus. Wild boar populations from these regions and the Balkans may have contributed more to the post-Ice Age colonization of Central and Eastern Europe than the groups of this type of shelters located in the western and southwestern parts of the continent.
The genetic makeup of wild boars in the study area, taking into account not only the distribution of mtDNA, but also the frequency of individuals belonging to each of them, largely corresponds to the range of mtDNA lines and the location of their contact region. Other factors, such as mating with domestic pigs, reintroduction of wild boars from different groups by humans, or a temporary decrease in the number of these species (for example in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries) may have had little effect on the genetic diversity and the currently observed distribution of mtDNA clades of this type in Europe.
Further research will show whether wild boar genetic diversity will be affected by the current decline in the number of these species caused by the ASF epidemic, and what its impact, the researchers say.
PAP – Science in Poland
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