From past True Strange posts, enjoy this piglet, a curious biological anomaly. I’m surprised anyone today would try to deny a common DNA source of all life on earth. In addition to what we know about genes resulting in physical traits, it is visually obvious that animals fall into genetic groupings. 

Curious locals flocked to the home of owner Feng Changlin after news of the piglet spread in Fengzhang village, Xiping township.

“It’s hideous. No one will be willing to buy it, and it scares the family to even look at it!” Feng told Oriental Today.

He says the piglet looks just like a monkey, with two thin lips, a small nose and two big eyes. Its rear legs are also much longer than its forelegs, causing it to jump instead of walk.

Feng’s wife said the monkey-faced piglet was one of five newborns of a sow which the family had raised for nine years.

“My God, it was so scary. I didn’t known what it was. I was really frightened,” she said.

“But our son likes to play with it, and he stopped us from getting rid of it. He even feeds it milk.”

Neighbours have suggested the couple keep the piglet to see how it looks as it matures. – orange

Okay, wow. That’s some mutation. Human-pig hybrid embryos have been approved in the UK. How about China?

NOTE: China is a leader in pig genetics.

Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Danish Committee of Pig Breeding and Production (DCPBP) jointly announce the public release of pig genomic sequences. The released sequence data include 3.84 million pieces of the genomes of five different domestic pig breeds from Europe and China. The data are generated from the first large scale pig genome sequencing effort, the Sino-Danish Pig Genome Project, started in 2001 on the basis of a long standing collaboration of scientists and research institutions from China and Denmark. – continues on science daily

Thanks to SilviusMD for pointing out that this is the result of a neurological-facial malformation called Holoprosencephaly. “The cause is thought to be a genetic alteration, in this case probably due to environmental exposure to certain chemicals.”

With some trepeidation, I did a google image search for “Holoprosencephaly” and found some Cyclops looking individuals. One startling photo showed baby with its two eyes in a central eye socket … and no nose. So, it’s not just pigs. This happens occasionally in humans too. This same developmental disorder caused the cyclops kitten you may have seen a while back.

It would be interesting to figure out which chemicals might have caused this… but keep in mind that legends of a Cyclops goes way back, so modern pollutants can’t be the only cause. Yes, I think Cyclopes were real.

Hesiod describes one group of cyclopes and Homer describes another. In Hesiod’s Theogony, Zeus releases three Cyclopes, the sons of Uranus and Gaia, from the dark pit of Tartarus. They provide Zeus’s thunderbolt, Hades’ helmet of invisibility, and Poseidon’s trident, and the gods use these weapons to defeat the Titans. In a famous episode of Homer‘s Odyssey, the hero Odysseus encounters the Cyclops Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon and a nereid (Thoosa), who lives with his fellow Cyclopes in a distant country. The connection between the two groups has been debated in antiquity and by modern scholars.

This from Science Daily:

Homer’s Cyclops might be myth, but a disorder that can cause babies to be born with only one eye is very real. Scientists from Cleveland, Ohio, and Paris, France, reached an important milestone in understanding one of the molecular causes of a rare, but serious birth defect, Holoprosencephaly. …a known mutation of the TG interacting factor (TGIF) gene, called TGIF.P63R, causes Holoprosencephaly, which affects brain and skull formation. In particular, researchers found that this mutation not only does not produce the protein necessary for healthy fetal development, but the mutant protein may actually destroy the small amounts of the normal protein that is needed. … Holoprosencephaly occurs when the embryonic forebrain fails to divide into the two lobes that make up the cerebral hemispheres. As a result, people with this disorder have a single-lobed brain structure and severe skull and facial defects. In most cases, the disorder is so severe that fetuses die before birth. In relatively “mild” cases, babies may be born with near-normal brain development, but they usually have facial deformities affecting the eyes, nose, and/or upper lip.

For the curious: Could a monkey and a pig mate and have an offspring? No. Except when humans mess with their DNA, animals with different numbers of chromosomes can not produce offspring. Here are some chromosome numbers from wikipedia:

Species # Species #
Common fruit fly 8 Guinea Pig 64
Dove 16 Garden snail 54
Earthworm 36 Tibetan fox 36
Domestic cat 38 Domestic pig 38
Lab mouse 40 Lab rat 42
Rabbit 44 Syrian hamster 44
Hare 46 Human 46
Gorilla, Orangutan,
48 Domestic sheep 54
Elephant 56 Cow 60
Donkey 62 Horse 64
Dog 78 Kingfisher 132
Goldfish 100-104 Silkworm 56

A tiger has 66 chromosomes. What about a pig and a cat? Both domestic cats and domestic pigs have had their entire genome sequenced.

ANSWER: Chromosome number is not the only reproductive barrier between species. Even if a human could mate with a hare, Bugs Bunny would not result.

When they meet, the chromosomes from one parent need to be similar enough to those from the other parent, so that when their genes combine, they produce something that lives. While the human and the hare each have 23 pairs of chromosomes, there is not enough of a match up.

Review: Chromosomes contain pairs of DNA molecules. Each human egg or sperm contains 2.85 billion DNA base pairs in 23 separate chromosomes. Each human chromosome has from 50 million to 250 million DNA pairs. A “gene” is a group of DNA pairs on a chromosome. Humans may have as few as 20,000 genes.

Here is a picture of human male chromosomes:

I haven’t found any photos of hare chromosomes… yet.

The londonpaper had these new photos.  Interesting, isn’t it, that a genetic mutation can make a pig face look similar to a monkey face?

Little hint about evolution, isn’t it? No, I’m not saying a pig could evolve into a monkey.

The way evolution works is, animals change over time, and if they get separated geographically, the two branches keep changing. Eventually they are different enough, like zebras and horses, that they are different species, meaning they can no longer breed and produce offspring.

Mammals have been around for about 200 million years. (Imagine you live to be 80 years old 2 million 500 thousand times…)  That’s a looooooooong time and a lot of mutations.

Wow, that’s some pig.