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Keywords:

  • domestic pig;
  • hybridization;
  • introgression;
  • single nucleotide polymorphism;
  • Sus scrofa ;
  • wild boar

Abstract

Present-day genetic introgression from domestic pigs into European wild boar has been suggested in various studies. However, no hybrids have been identified beyond doubt mainly because available methods were unable to quantify the extent of introgression and rule out natural processes. Genetic introgression from domestic pigs may have far-reaching ecological consequences by altering traits like the reproduction rate or immunology of wild boar. In this study, we demonstrate a novel approach to investigate genetic introgression in a Northwest (NW) European wild boar data set using a genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) assay developed for domestic pigs. We quantified the extent of introgression using allele frequency spectrum analysis, in silico hybridization simulations and genome distribution patterns of introgressed SNPs. Levels of recent introgression in the study area were expected to be low, as pig farming practices are prevailingly intensive and indoors. However, evidence was found for geographically widespread presence of domestic pig SNPs in 10% of analysed wild boar. This was supported by the identification of two different pig mitochondrial DNA haplotypes in three of the identified hybrid wild boar, suggesting that introgression had occurred from multiple sources (pig breeds). In silico hybridization simulations showed that the level of introgression in the identified hybrid wild boar is equivalent to first-generation hybrids until fifth-generation backcrosses with wild boar. The distribution pattern of introgressed SNPs supported these assignments in four of nine hybrids. The other five hybrids are considered advanced-generation hybrids, resulting from interbreeding among hybrid individuals. Three of nine hybrids were genetically associated with a different wild boar population than the one in which they were sampled. This discrepancy suggests that genetic introgression has occurred through the escape or release of an already hybridized farmed wild boar stock. We conclude that genetic introgression from domestic pigs into NW European wild boar populations is more recent and more common than expected and that genome-wide SNP analysis is a promising tool to quantify recent hybridization in free-living populations.