Microsatellite diversity in European and Chinese pigs was assessed using a pooled sampling method on 52 European and 46 Chinese pig populations. A Neighbor Joining analysis on genetic distances revealed that European breeds were grouped together and showed little evidence for geographic structure, although a southern European and English group could tentatively be assigned. Populations from international breeds formed breed specific clusters. The Chinese breeds formed a second major group, with the Sino-European synthetic Tia Meslan in-between the two large clusters. Within Chinese breeds, in contrast to the European pigs, a large degree of geographic structure was noted, in line with previous classification schemes for Chinese pigs that were based on morphology and geography. The Northern Chinese breeds were most similar to the European breeds. Although some overlap exists, Chinese breeds showed a higher average degree of heterozygosity and genetic distance compared to European ones. Between breed diversity was even more pronounced and was the highest in the Central Chinese pigs, reflecting the geographically central position in China. Comparing correlations between genetic distance and heterozygosity revealed that China and Europe represent different domestication or breed formation processes. A likely cause is a more diverse wild boar population in Asia, but various other possible contributing factors are discussed.
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