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This is a summary of articles published in Rare Breeds NewZ, numbers 63 (November 2003), 67 (November 2004) and 72 (February 2006).

DNA Studies of Rare Breeds

      There have been several studies of DNA that provide information on the origins of some of our indigenous rare breeds. Results of a selection of these are briefly summarized here, and, because of the highly technical nature of these studies, references to the original publications are given in full to facilitate further reading. (The Website compilers thank Ross Fraser and Jaime Gongora for supplying some of the publications.)

Enderby Cattle (2001): The semen of nine bulls collected in 1991 during the cattle cull on Enderby Island was used for testing. The results were compared with those from seven other breeds – Angus, Friesian, Belted Galloway, Hereford, Jersey, Shetland and Danish Shorthorn. All of these except the Jersey could be eliminated from being closely related. The Jersey was the most likely contender, but the results did not prove that the Enderby cattle originated from Jersey stock.
(No genotype data were available for comparison with British Shorthorns which is the breed anecdotally suggested as that originally introduced to Enderby Island.)

"Enderby Island Cattle: What Breed are they Derived From?" by D. L. Hyndman, R. P. Littlejohn, J. L. Williams and A. M. Crawford. Proceedings of the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breed Genetics (14th Conference, Queenstown, New Zealand, 2001) Volume 14, pages 329-331.

Kunekune Pigs (2001): The "Pacific Babes" project was undertaken at Auckland University, and published in 2001. It explored the potential sources of genetic variation in Pacific Island pigs over the duration of their relationships with Pacific people. [The term "Babes" incidentally came from the film Babe – and is also an allusion to the maternal basis of mitochondrial DNA] This research showed that "Kunekune pigs are distinct from both Pacific pigs, and a range of common European breeds."
The finding was important in that some enthusiasts had thought that Kunekunes might have originated from Pacific Island pigs brought to New Zealand by pre-European Maori settlers, in spite of there being no historical or archaeological evidence for this.

"Pacific 'Babes': Issues in the Origins and Dispersal of Pacific Pigs and the Potential of Mitochondrial DNA Analysis" by Melinda S. Allen, Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith and Ann Horsburgh, 2001. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology 11: 4-13.

Kunekune and Auckland Island Pigs (2002): Results of Australian DNA work, presented in 2002, showed that the origins of Kunekunes could be traced to Asian domestic pigs and Auckland Island pigs to European domestic breeds.

"Origins of Kune Kune and Auckland Island pigs in New Zealand" by J. Gongora, O. Garkavenko and C. Moran. 7th World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production, August 19-23, 2002, Montpellier, France. Session 26, Management of Genetic Diversity.

Auckland Island Pigs (2003): Blood samples from five of the seventeen pigs collected on Auckland Island in 1999 were used in DNA studies. These were compared with those from a wide range of modern domestic pig breeds and wild boar from both Europe and Asia.
The results indicated that the Auckland Island pigs were a single breeding population most likely of European domestic origin.

"The Origins of the Feral Pigs on the Auckland Islands" by Judith H. Robins, Elizabeth Matisoo-Smith and Howard A. Ross. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Volume 33, Number 2, June 2003, pages 561-569.

Kunekune and Auckland Island Pigs (2004): This study – published in 2004 – is largely concerned with Australian feral pigs, but it did include samples of both Kunekune and Auckland Island pigs. The work places the Kunekune high amongst breeds of Asian origin and the Auckland Islanders in the European block.
The authors of the report observed that their research indicated that feral pigs in general possessed valuable porcine genetic diversity that could be useful for sourcing future breeds for livestock production. Although generally considered negatively (in their natural state), feral pigs could be useful in studies of environmental adaptation and disease resistance, which could be important for commercial pig production. And also, feral animals that have bred in the wild for a long time could be useful for generating new biomedical resources.

"Phylogenetic relationships of Australian and New Zealand feral pigs assessed by mitochondrial control region sequence and nuclear GPIP genotype" by Jaime Gongora, Peter Fleming, Peter B. S. Spenser, Richard Mason, Olga Garkavenko, Johann-Nikolaus Meyer, Cord Droegmueller, Jun Heon Lee, Chris Moran (2004). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33: 339-348.

Auckland Island Pigs (2005): Examination using 26 microsatellites revealed that Auckland Island pigs have a low level of genetic variability compared with European, Asian, Middle American indigenous and commercial pigs, as would be expected for a small population isolated for up to 200 years. Phylogenetic analyses of microsatellite data suggested that they are more related to European pigs than Chinese pigs, which is consistent with mitochondrial analyses. In addition, it was showed that genotypes alone could accurately assign all Auckland Island pigs to their correct population, and also that two distinct Auckland Island subpopulations could be recognised.

"Population genetic variability and origin of Auckland Island feral pigs" by Bin Fan, Jaime Gongora, Yizhou Chen, Olga Garkavenko, Kui Li and Chris Moran. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Volume 35, Number 3, September, 2005, pages 279-285.

Some Brief Definitions:
DNA – DeoxyriboNucleic Acid, the material inside the nucleus of cells that carries genetic information.
Mitochondrial DNA – unique DNA useful for tracing maternal lineage.
Microsatellites – repetitive stretches of short DNA sequences.

   See also:
» Enderby Island Cattle   
» Auckland Island Pigs
» Kunekune Pigs
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