Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why Piglets Shudder To Keep Warm

Date:
August 21, 2006
Source:
Public Library of Science
Summary:
Researchers at Uppsala University have uncovered a genetic reason why these newborns are less tolerant of the cold than other newborn mammals. It turns out that the gene that codes for the protein UCP1 was inactivated some 20 million years ago in the evolutionary line to which pigs belong.

The ancestor of the domesticated pig, the wild boar, is the only pig that lives in cold climates. All other species inhabit tropical or subtropical climates. The wild boar has compensated for the loss of brown fat by a series of adaptations for survival in a cold climate. It is the only hoofed animal that builds a den when it is time to give birth see, and its young shudder to maintain their body temperature.
Credit: Image courtesy of Public Library of Science

Piglets are sensitive to cold and shiver to maintain their body heat. Researchers at Uppsala University have uncovered a genetic reason why these newborns are less tolerant of the cold than other newborn mammals. It turns out that the gene that codes for the protein UCP1 was inactivated some 20 million years ago in the evolutionary line to which pigs belong. These findings are presented in the peer-reviewed, open-access journal PLoS Genetics.

Brown fat helps newborn mammals maintain their body temperature by burning fat, which converts into heat. The protein UCP1 (Uncoupling Protein 1) has a key role in this energy conversion, which takes place in the cell mitochondria.

No brown fat or UCP1 protein has been found in domesticated pigs, however. In their study, Berg and colleagues show that the UCP1 gene was shut down about 20 million years ago in an ancestor of the wild boar. They identified four different mutations, each of which would be sufficient to knock out the function of the protein.

This ancestor of pigs thereby lost the ability to use brown fat to maintain body temperature after birth. A reasonable explanation for this is that brown fat was not essential during a period in the evolution of pigs, in which they lived in a warm climate, says Leif Andersson, who directs the research team.

The ancestor of the domesticated pig, the wild boar, is the only pig that lives in cold climates. All other species inhabit tropical or subtropical climates. The wild boar has compensated for the loss of brown fat by a series of adaptations for survival in a cold climate. It is the only hoofed animal that builds a den when it is time to give birth see, and its young shudder to maintain their body temperature. In modern pig production, heat lamps are used to help the newborn piglets retain their body temperature.

The findings show that an important biological function can be lost if it is not vital to life during a period in the evolutionary history of a species; and that if the living conditions once again change, compensatory mechanisms can be developed. The findings we present are fully consistent with the theory of evolution. An important trait can be lost if it is not absolutely necessary to life during the development of a species, says Leif Andersson.

Citation: Berg F, Gustafson U, Andersson L (2006) The uncoupling protein 1 gene (UCP1) is disrupted in the pig lineage: A genetic explanation for poor thermoregulation in piglets. PLoS Genet 2(8): e129. (Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.0020129)


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Public Library of Science. "Why Piglets Shudder To Keep Warm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060819111406.htm>.
Public Library of Science. (2006, August 21). Why Piglets Shudder To Keep Warm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060819111406.htm
Public Library of Science. "Why Piglets Shudder To Keep Warm." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/08/060819111406.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Great British Farmland Boom

The Great British Farmland Boom

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 17, 2014) Britain's troubled Co-operative Group is preparing to cash in on nearly 18,000 acres of farmland in one of the biggest UK land sales in decades. As Ivor Bennett reports, the market timing couldn't be better, with farmland prices soaring over 270 percent in the last 10 years. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) With plenty of honking, flapping, and fluttering, more than three dozen Caribbean flamingos at Zoo Miami were rounded up today as the iconic exhibit was closed for renovations. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins