The Ryukyu wild boar (Sus scrofa riukiuanus) is an endemic, morphologically defined subspecies of the Eurasian wild boar (S. scrofa) found on five islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago (a group of small islands stretching from mainland Japan to Taiwan). Two hypothetical scenarios have been proposed regarding the origin of the current Ryukyu wild boar populations: 1) natural dispersal and 2) transportation and subsequent release by prehistoric humans. To test these two hypotheses, we compared the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequence (1140 base pairs) in 352 individual wild boar samples that included representatives of all five insular populations of the Ryukyu wild boar and populations of other conspecific subspecies in insular East and Southeast Asia and the Eurasian Continent. A total of 68 haplotypes were recognized, of which 12 were unique to the Ryukyu wild boar populations. The results of Bayesian phylogenetic analyses supported monophyly of the five Ryukyu populations (posterior probability value of 92), confirming the validity of the subspecies as a natural group. Coalescent analysis estimated the divergence times between the Ryukyu wild boar and the other conspecific subspecies as 144–465 thousand years ago (Kya), with a 95% HPD (highest posterior density) range of 51–837 Kya, and with no significant migration. Taking the broadly accepted date of initial human migration to the Ryukyus (no earlier than 50 Kya) into consideration, our results strongly suggest that the ancestral form of the Ryukyu wild boar first entered the Ryukyu Archipelago by natural dispersal prior to the arrival of prehistoric humans.
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Vol. 33 • No. 5