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Morphological Variation in Wild and Domestic Suids

OWEN, JOSEPH,THOMAS,DAVID (2013) Morphological Variation in Wild and Domestic Suids. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Pigs occupy a special place in the human psyche. They are kept both as stock domesticates, like cattle and sheep, and they are treated as companions and aids, like cats and dogs. There are currently nearly two billion (c.1,984,607,000) domesticated pigs in the world kept as stock animals bred for slaughter (Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), 2012). Keeping pigs as pets has become increasingly popular in western society in recent years and commensalism with pigs is a long-held tradition in Island South East Asia (McDonald-Brown, 2009). Pigs are a key economic resource; however, they are also an animal that inspires strong emotions of attachment or revulsion; seen as loyal, intelligent, courageous and resourceful or unclean, licentious, gluttonous and ignorant (Albarella et al., 2007, Phillips, 2007). As such pigs and pig products are extensively referenced in classical literature and modern pop culture; examples include George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Circe, a minor Greek goddess who transforms Odysseus’ men into pigs when they feast at her table in Homer’s Odyssey; the warthog Pumba from the movie The Lion King, Miss Piggy from The Muppets and Spiderpig in the Simpsons; pigs continued popularity is a testament to their enduring importance.

As a result of this unique dual positions of pet and produce, pigs have been intensively studied both as domestic and wild animals. The earliest studies of domestic pigs, their form and origins, come from Charles Darwin (1868) and Ludwig Rutimeyer (1860, 1864), whilst the first scientific description of wild Sus was by Karl Linnaeus (1740, 1758).

Here I continue the investigation of the pig, particularly the evolution of wild and domestic pigs, through a geometric morphometric analysis of cranial form. Whist the original concept of this study was derived from a grant concerned with the spread of domestic pigs across Europe at the beginning of the Neolithic, this thesis encompasses wider studies. By applying geometric morphometrics to questions of suid evolution and variability and domestication, we can effect a deeper understanding of how pigs colonised Africa, how suid morphology is affected by climate and geography, that wild and domestic pig cranial morphologies are distinct enough to discriminate between. These have implications for evolutionary studies of
the suid family, explaining apparent incongruence between morphological studies and genetics. There are significant implications for archaeological studies, especially those concerned with identifying the origins of domestication where inadequacies in the traditional methodology can be overcome through the application of geometric morphometrics. We also test and reject the traditional hypothesis of heterochrony as the causal mechanism for the development of the domestic morphotype.

Methodologies to test this have recently been developed for geometric morphometrics (Mitteroecker et al., 2005), but had not been applied to stock domesticates before. What is seen in suid ontogeny is not explained by the traditional language of heterochrony, nor are domestic pigs paedomorphic wild pigs. This leaves the cause of morphological changes observed during domestication unexplained, which should be a focus of future work.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Anthropology, Department of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:28 Mar 2013 12:44

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