Thursday, August 17, 2006

Copenhagen Zoo breeds new pig

Two pigs at the Copenhagen Zoo surprise scientists with their impossible offspring

Loneliness was the catalyst for the creation of a new animal hybrid at Copenhagen Zoo, the unsuspected result of a successful mating between a babirusa and a domestic pig.

After the zoo's lone babirusa exhibited signs of depression, personnel decided to give it some company, putting two domestic pigs into the babirus' area. Zoo personnel were completely surprised when a chance mating bore fruit - five small hybrid offspring which zoo experts say never should have been possible.

'That the mating produced piglets is the equivalent of a cow and a goat producing offspring,' said zoologist Bengt Holst, assistant director of Copenhagen Zoo. 'While the domestic pig and the babirusa come from the same ancestor, it's so far back that the two species today are common only at the so-called under-family level, which is the same grouping as we have with the chimpanzee.'

The new breed has not yet been classified, and zoo staff is guarded in their long-term prognosis for the species.

'Hybrids usually don't live long as pure species, and I doubt that the piglets themselves can produce offspring,' said Holst.

Early signs for the piglets are good, however, and blood and tissue samples have been taken from the offspring to determine their health and, not least, their DNA make-up. The physical traits of the offspring most resemble the babirusa, both in their teeth and skin colour.

The babirusa lives wild in only one place on earth - the Indonesian island of Celebes.

(the picture shows a babirusa)

source: The Copenhagen Post

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