Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

West and Central African lions are genetically different from those in East and southern Africa

Date:
April 4, 2011
Source:
Universiteit Leiden
Summary:
New findings of genetic research on lions reveals a remarkable difference between lions in West and Central Africa and lions in East and southern Africa.

Lions in Pendjari National Park, Benin.
Credit: Photo by Hans de Iongh

Researchers from the Institute of Environmental Sciences and the Leiden Institute of Biology in the Netherlands have recently published the findings of their genetic research on lions, which reveals a remarkable difference between lions in West and Central Africa and lions in East and southern Africa.

The study, from which the results were published in the Journal of Biogeography, was conducted by a consortium of researchers from a number of different universities.

Genetically different

The outcome of their research suggests that lions from West and Central Africa are genetically different from lions in East and southern Africa. The researchers analysed a region on the mitochondrial DNA of lions from all over Africa and from India, including sequences from extinct lions such as the Atlas lions in Morocco. Surprisingly, lions from West and Central Africa seemed to be more related to lions from the Asiatic subspecies than to their counterparts in East and southern Africa.

Previous research has already suggested that lions in West and Central Africa are smaller in size and weight, have smaller manes, live in smaller groups, eat smaller prey and may also differ in the shape of their skull, compared to their counterparts in East and southern Africa. However, this research was not backed by conclusive scientific evidence. The present research findings show that the difference is also reflected in the genetic makeup of the lions.

Barriers for dispersal

The distinction between lions from West and Central Africa and individuals from East and southern Africa can partially be explained by the location of natural structures that may form barriers for lion dispersal. These structures include the Central African rain forest and the Rift Valley, which stretches from Ethiopia to Tanzania and from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Mozambique. Another aspect explaining the unique genetic position of the West and Central African lion is the climatological history of this part of the continent.

It is hypothesised that a local extinction occurred, following periods of severe drought 40,000 to 8,000 years ago. During this period, lions continuously ranged deep into Asia and it is likely that conditions in the Middle East were still sufficiently favourable to sustain lion populations. The data published in the Journal of Biogeography suggest that West and Central Africa was recolonised by lions from areas close to India, which explains the close genetic relationship between lions from these two areas.

Declining population

There are thought to be some 1,700 lions left in West and Central Africa, which is less than 10% of the total estimated lion population in Africa. Lions in West and Central Africa are declining and are under severe threat due to the fragmentation or even destruction of their natural savannah habitat, the depletion of prey and retaliatory killing by livestock owners. The West and Central African lion is currently categorised as 'Regionally Endangered', according to IUCN criteria. Recent surveys in a large number of Lion Conservation Units in this region were, in fact, not able to confirm the presence of lions.

Other carnivore species, such as the wild dog and the cheetah, have become almost extinct in the region, with small populations surviving in Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso. These populations also appears to be struggling, suffering primarily from habitat loss and degradation, and conflict with local people.

Conservation

To save the last remaining large carnivores in this region, a new initiative has been launched: the 'Large Carnivore Initiative for West and Central Africa'. This initiative is supported by a large number of conservation organisations. Insights into the geographic pattern of genetic variation within a species can contribute significantly to the field of wildlife conservation. The patterns described in this publication should have consequences not only for in situ wildlife management, but also for management of zoo populations and captive breeding programmes.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universiteit Leiden. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. L. D. Bertola, W. F. van Hooft, K. Vrieling, D. R. Uit de Weerd, D. S. York, H. Bauer, H. H. T. Prins, P. J. Funston, H. A. Udo de Haes, H. Leirs, W. A. van Haeringen, E. Sogbohossou, P. N. Tumenta, H. H. de Iongh. Genetic diversity, evolutionary history and implications for conservation of the lion (Panthera leo) in West and Central Africa. Journal of Biogeography, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02500.x

Cite This Page:

Universiteit Leiden. "West and Central African lions are genetically different from those in East and southern Africa." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110401085113.htm>.
Universiteit Leiden. (2011, April 4). West and Central African lions are genetically different from those in East and southern Africa. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110401085113.htm
Universiteit Leiden. "West and Central African lions are genetically different from those in East and southern Africa." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110401085113.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Super Healthful Fruits and Vegetables: Which Are Best?

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) We all know that it is important to eat our fruits and vegetables but do you know which ones are the best for you? Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Bad Memories Turn Good In Weird Mouse Brain Study

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) MIT researchers were able to change whether bad memories in mice made them anxious by flicking an emotional switch in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?

Do Couples Who Smoke Weed Together Stay Together?

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) A study out of University at Buffalo claims couples who smoke marijuana are less likely to experience intimate partner violence. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Panda Might Have Faked Pregnancy To Get Special Treatment

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) A panda in China showed pregnancy symptoms that disappeared after two months of observation. One theory: Her pseudopregnancy was a ploy for perks. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins