Auckland Island’s Pesky Pigs Now Cash Cows
Auckland Island was – and still is – home to pigs, initially introduced in the first half of the 19th century by European hunters and explorers, as well as a group of Indigenous New Zealanders fleeing conflict. The pigs have no natural predators, and over time, they have wrought destruction upon Auckland Island’s flora and fauna, Bill Morris writes in a story published by WIRED. Government conservationists now want them gone – but there’s a twist.
These once domesticated farm animals have evolved into ultra-resilient, disease-free pigs that have caught the eye of scientists who study xenotransplantation, a type of medical procedure in which cells, tissues, or organs from one species are transferred into another species, Morris reports.
The Auckland Island pigs, with their unique genetics, may be especially well-suited for this purpose.
The use of non-human primates for biomedical research is controversial, so over time, researchers looked to pigs. “Their organs, their tissues, and their physiology are sufficiently close to humans,” founder and CEO of New Zealand xenotransplantation research company NZeno Paul Tan said. “Their cells function in a manner that is very close to humans. So their blood sugar levels and our blood sugar levels are pretty close.”
Original article by Bill Morris, WIRED, April 22, 2023.
Photo by Jon Sullivan.