Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Iberian lynx not doomed by its genetics

Date:
August 21, 2011
Source:
University College London
Summary:
The low genetic diversity of the Iberian lynx -- the most endangered carnivore in Europe -- may not decrease the species' chance of survival, according to new research by geneticists.

Iberian lynx.
Credit: © Ivan Montero / Fotolia

The low genetic diversity of the Iberian lynx -- the most endangered carnivore in Europe -- may not decrease the species' chance of survival, according to new research by geneticists.

Research looking at DNA from Iberian lynx fossils shows that they have had very little genetic variation over the last 50,000 years, suggesting that a small long-term population size is the 'norm' in the species and has not hampered their survival. The new study is published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

Conservationists previously thought that having low genetic diversity would doom a species to extinction, through inbreeding and reduced ability to adapt to changing environments.

Such a lack of genetic diversity, also seen in other cat species such as African cheetahs, lions of the Ngorongoro crater and the Florida panther, is usually thought to be the result of population bottlenecks. The effect of human activity or the dramatic ecosystem changes at the end of the last ice age caused by the Holocene warming around 10,000 years ago are common explanations for the phenomenon.

However, when researchers in Spain, Denmark and Sweden extracted DNA from the fossil bones and teeth of Iberian lynx, covering a period of at least the last 50,000 years, they found no genetic variation over that period. They were looking at mitochondrial DNA -- a part of the genome that is usually very variable.

"At first this result was very surprising," said Ricardo Rodríguez from the Instituto de Salud Carlos III in Madrid, a lead author of the study. "It is not unusual to see low genetic diversity in living members of a species, but when people have looked at fossil DNA -- especially from fossils older than 10,000 years -- much more diversity is usually seen."

In collaboration with researchers at UCL (University College London), they were able to show that such patterns are best explained by relatively small long-term population sizes over that period.

"To see so little genetic diversity over such a long period of time indicates that populations sizes were moderate" said Professor Mark Thomas from the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at UCL, a co-author on the study. "But if small populations can exist for so long and with so little genetic diversity then this must say something about the survivability of similar endangered species today."

The Iberian lynx is currently considered the most threatened cat species in the world and is the most endangered carnivore in Europe. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has classified it as critically endangered. Despite being distributed throughout the Iberian peninsula in the past, lynx are now only found in two small isolated populations in southern Spain which together harbour no more than 279 individuals. This recent reduction in population size has been caused by habitat destruction, the decline of its main prey species -- the European rabbit -- and excessive hunting, even in the recent past.

"Most importantly, these results show that low genetic diversity in the Iberian lynx is not in itself an indication of a population in crisis" said Dr. Love Dalén from the Swedish Museum of Natural History, senior author on the study. "What's more, our results may help conservation biologists to assess how large a population needs to be to ensure its long-term survival, something which is a topic of an ongoing debate in many countries, especially for large carnivores."

"One clear message of our study is that a lack of genetic diversity in an endangered species should not hamper conservation efforts" added Dr. Cristina Valdiosera from Copenhagen University. "It's a myth that certain species are doomed by their genetics. If a species is doomed, it is only doomed by a lack of will to conserve it."


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ricardo Rodríguez, Oscar Ramírez, Cristina E. Valdiosera, Nuria García, Fernando Alda, Joan Madurell-Malapeira, Josep Marmi, Ignacio Doadrio, Eske Willerslev, Anders Götherström, Juan Luis Arsuaga, Mark G. Thomas, Carles Lalueza-Fox, Love Dalén. 50,000 years of genetic uniformity in the critically endangered Iberian lynx. Molecular Ecology, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05231.x

Cite This Page:

University College London. "Iberian lynx not doomed by its genetics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110821191435.htm>.
University College London. (2011, August 21). Iberian lynx not doomed by its genetics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110821191435.htm
University College London. "Iberian lynx not doomed by its genetics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110821191435.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

Raw: Rare Lion Cubs Make Debut at Belgrade Zoo

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Two white lion cubs were born in Belgrade zoo three weeks ago. White lions are a rare mutation of a species found in South Africa and some cultures consider them divine. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

The Best Foods To Boost Your Mood

Buzz60 (Oct. 17, 2014) — Feeling down? Reach for the refrigerator, not the medicine cabinet! TC Newman (@PurpleTCNewman) shares some of the best foods to boost your mood. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

Sweet Times for Hard Cider Makers

AP (Oct. 16, 2014) — With hard cider making a hardcore comeback across the country, craft makers are trying to keep up with demand and apple growers are tapping a juicy new revenue stream. (Oct. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Meet Garfi the Angry Cat

Buzz60 (Oct. 16, 2014) — Garfi is one frowny, feisty feline - downright angry! Ko Im (@koimtv) introduces us to the latest animal celebrity taking over the Internet. You can follow more of Garfi's adventures on Twitter (@MeetGarfi) and Facebook (Garfi). Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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