Purdue University Graduate School
Willson,Hannah_Thesis.pdf (8.25 MB)

Genetic and biological architecture of pork quality, carcass, primal-cut and growth traits in Duroc pigs

Download (8.25 MB)
posted on 2020-08-01, 12:02 authored by Hannah E WillsonHannah E Willson

Within the last few decades, swine breeding programs have been refined to include pork quality and novel carcass traits alongside growth, feed efficiency, and carcass leanness in the selection programs for terminal sire lines with a goal to produce high quality and efficient pork product for consumers. In order to accurately select for multiple traits at once, it becomes imperative to explore their genetic and biological architecture. The genetic architecture of traits can be explored through the estimation of genetic parameters, genome-wide association studies (GWAS), gene networks and metabolic pathways. An alternative approach to explore the genetic and biological connection between traits is based on principal component analysis (PCA), which generates novel “pseudo-phenotypes” and biological types (biotypes). In this context, the main objective of this thesis was to understand the genetic and biological relationship between three growth, eight conventional carcass, 10 pork quality, and 18 novel carcass traits included in two studies. The phenotypic data set included 2,583 records from female Duroc pigs from a terminal sire line. The pedigree file contained 193,764 animals and the genotype file included 21,344 animals with 35,651 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The results of the first study indicate that genetic progress can be achieved for all 39 traits. In general, the heritability estimates were moderate, while most genetic correlations were generally moderate to high and favorable. Some antagonisms were observed but those genetic correlations were low to moderate in nature. Thus, these relationships can be considered when developing selection indexes. The second study showed that there are strong links between traits through their principal components (PCs). The main PCs identified are linked to biotypes related to growth, muscle and fat deposition, pork color, and body composition. The PCs were also used as pseudo-phenotypes in the GWAS analysis, which identified important candidate genes and metabolic pathways linked to each biotype. All of this evidence links valuable variables such as belly, color, marbling, and leanness traits. Our findings greatly contribute to the optimization of genetic and genomic selection for the inclusion of valuable and novel traits to improve productive efficiency, novel carcass, and meat quality traits in terminal sire lines.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Animal Sciences

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Luiz F. Brito

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Allan P. Schinckel

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Stacy Zuelly

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Nick Serao