A test for paedomorphism in domestic pig cranial morphology

Allowen Evin, Joseph Owen, Greger Larson, Mélanie Debiais-Thibaud, Thomas Cucchi, Una Strand Vidarsdottir, Keith Dobney

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24 Citations (Scopus)
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Domestic animals are often described as paedomorphic, meaning that they retain juvenile characteristics into adulthood. Through a three-dimensional landmark-based geometric morphometric analysis of cranial morphology at three growth stages, we demonstrate that wild boar (n = 138) and domestic pigs (n = 106) (Sus scrofa) follow distinct ontogenetic trajectories. With the exception of the size ratio between facial and neurocranial regions, paedomorphism does not appear to be the primary pattern describing the observed differences between wild and domestic pig cranial morphologies. The cranial phenotype of domestic pigs instead involves developmental innovation during domestication. This result questions the long-standing assumption that domestic animal phenotypes are paedomorphic forms of their wild counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20170321
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number8
Early online date9 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

This project was supported by NERC (NE/F003382/1), the Leverhulme Trust (F/00128/AX) and a European Research Council grant (no. ERC-2013-StG-337574-UN- DEAD).

We thank the institutions and individuals that provided access to collections, especially the curators of the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin; Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Genève; Museum für Haustierkunde, Halle; the American Museum of Natural History, New York; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington; and the Natural History Museum, London. We thank Ardern Hulme-Beaman for his help during data collection, and Kieran McNulty, Julien Claude and Mathieu Joron for discussion and comments on the manuscript. We thank the reviewers of this work whose suggestions improved the manuscript.


  • domestication
  • heterochrony
  • paedomorphism
  • ontogeny
  • Sus scrofa
  • geometric morphometrics


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