Researchers from more than half a dozen research facilities contributed to the study, among them lead author Anna Linderholm, Texas A&M assistant professor of anthropology.
"[Cook] almost certainly brought pigs, chickens and other animals with him," said Linderholm in a statement. "But our findings show that the wild hogs there today were introduced much earlier than his arrival, by hundreds of years at least. They likely came from European or Asian descent."
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That conclusion could end up helping the hogs.
Hawaii has a sizable wild pig problem at present. The islands are overrun with thousands of up-to-400-pound feral hogs, which have been called "the most prolific large mammal on the face of the Earth" and ruin native plants as well as planted crops. Owning a home or farm in their path can be costly, and this has brought about talk of methods to get the problem under control.
However, the researchers note, pigs hold a special place in Hawaiian culture, with its Polynesian roots, and they urge caution moving forward.
"The ancestry of feral hogs in Hawaii today can be traced back to Polynesians, and their colorful island history and legends are embedded in the state's culture and many traditions," said Linderholm.
"The lineage of these wild hogs is part of the state's rich past," she added, "so management of these wild hogs will take considerable thought and careful planning."