Open Access Research article

Reintroductions and genetic introgression from domestic pigs have shaped the genetic population structure of Northwest European wild boar

Daniel J Goedbloed1*, Pim van Hooft1, Hendrik-Jan Megens2, Katharina Langenbeck1, Walburga Lutz3, Richard PMA Crooijmans2, Sip E van Wieren1, Ron C Ydenberg1 and Herbert HT Prins1

Author Affiliations

1 Resource Ecology Group, Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 47, Wageningen 6700AA, the Netherlands

2 Animal Breeding and Genomics Centre, Wageningen UR, P.O. Box 338, Wageningen 6700AH, the Netherlands

3 Wildlife Research Institute, P├╝tzchens Chaussee 228, Bonn 53229, Germany

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BMC Genetics 2013, 14:43  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-14-43

Published: 20 May 2013



Population genetic studies focus on natural dispersal and isolation by landscape barriers as the main drivers of genetic population structure. However, anthropogenic factors such as reintroductions, translocations and wild x domestic hybridization may also have strong effects on genetic population structure. In this study we genotyped 351 Single Nucleotide Polymorphism markers evenly spread across the genome in 645 wild boar (Sus scrofa) from Northwest Europe to evaluate determinants of genetic population structure.


We show that wild boar genetic population structure is influenced by historical reintroductions and by genetic introgression from domestic pigs. Six genetically distinct and geographically coherent wild boar clusters were identified in the Netherlands and Western Germany. The Dutch Veluwe cluster is known to be reintroduced, and three adjacent Dutch and German clusters are suspected to be a result of reintroduction, based on clustering results, low levels of heterozygosity and relatively high genetic distances to nearby populations. Recent wild x domestic hybrids were found geographically widespread across clusters and at low frequencies (average 3.9%). The relationship between pairwise kinship coefficients and geographic distance showed male-biased dispersal at the population genetic level.


Our results demonstrate that wildlife and landscape management by humans are shaping the genetic diversity of an iconic wildlife species. Historical reintroductions, translocation and recent restocking activities with farmed wild boar have all influenced wild boar genetic population structure. The current trend of wild boar population growth and range expansion has recently led to a number of contact zones between clusters, and further admixture between the different wild boar clusters is to be expected.