Images uploaded recently to social media show a weird-looking piglet with a snout like an elephant’s trunk and big floppy elephant-like ears. The trunk-like snout and big floppy ears make the piglet look like a cross between a pig and an elephant. Bemused online viewers have also remarked that the young animal looks like a pig evolving into an elephant.
But despite looking like an elephant with big ears and a pink trunk curving over its mouth, the piglet, born in Pramoy, in the western parts of Cambodia, was undersized. It suffered from severe physical deformities and could not open its eyes after it was born.
It is not known whether the animal survived the first hours or days after birth. Online viewers debated the cause of its physical deformity, with some suggesting it could be due to a rare mutation.
Other viewers said the piglet reminded them of the episode of South Park, titled, “An Elephant Made Love To A Pig.” But there was no reason to believe that creation of the piglet involved an elephant.
Many animal lovers said they were distressed about the condition of the piglet because its trunk-like snout curving over its mouth might prevent it from feeding.
But this is not the first time in recent years that a piglet that looks like an elephant has been born. A piglet — one of a litter of eight — with an elephant-like trunk and big ears was born in Longtan District in Jilin province of south-eastern China in 2014. But the animal died only two hours after birth, because it did not have a mouth, and thus could not feed or breathe. But despite its very brief life, it achieved fame after the Chinese farmer who owned it froze the corpse to preserve it as evidence.
The other seven siblings were normal and healthy.
Similarly in 2008, a piglet born on a farm at a village in southwest China became a sensation due to its primate-like facial features. It had a flat face like a primate’s, a large forehead, small snout, and eyes set in front like a primate’s for stereoscopic vision (see video below).
People came from across the region to see and snap pictures of the “humanoid” pig. Naughty speculations and theories soon emerged that the pig might be the product of union between the farmer and his sow. But others thought it could be a hybrid between a wild monkey and the sow that gave birth to the piglet.
However, experts pointed out that the evolutionary gap between pigs and primates is too wide, and consequently, that the two types of animals are unable to mate and reproduce successfully.
But experiments have shown that under carefully controlled laboratory conditions human cells can combine with pig cells in vivo to produce cells carrying a combination of human and pig chromosomal DNA.
Researchers recently proposed creating human-pig hybrids or chimera to further research into how to create pig organs that are partly human, so that the human body can accept them as surgical transplants.
But with regard to the case of the “elephant-pig” and pigs with humanoid faces, experts explain they are forms of a group of related congenital malformations termed holoprosencephaly (HPE) or arhinencephaly omnibus.
HPE is due to malformation of the brain that affects development of the face. In the typical case, the forebrain of the embryo fails to develop fully into two hemispheres. The developmental failure is accompanied by deformities of the face, eyes, nose and upper lip.
Resulting facial deformities include cyclopia, in which the eyes fail to diverge normally, leading sometimes to formation of a single eye. In some cases known as cyclocephaly or synophtalmia, the nose is missing or it is shaped like a proboscis or trunk-like organ.
[Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images]