Saturday, April 9, 2011

Poverty threatens the Siberian tiger genetics

Crosses between individuals of a small group have resulted in the genetic impoverishment of the whole. In the animal world, inbreeding may occur too tightly in the case of endangered species, such as the Siberian tiger ( Panthera tigris altaica ), which reduces genetic diversity and its ability to respond to critical situations such as disease.

“Most animal populations fluctuate over time. If reductions are very substantial demographic group is reduced dramatically, there may be two things: that the group is terminated or experiencing the phenomenon known as bottleneck (pronounced reduction of genetic diversity of a population), “says Samer Alas, a researcher at DoƱana Biological Station (CSIC).

The detection of genetic impoverishment in species is endangered, the researchers said, of “vital importance” to the strategies of conservation of the species. “In future genetic work on animal conservation will be necessary to add the effect of genetic bottlenecks that have gone by the species, because otherwise their future could be compromised,” says Alas.

An endangered species

Research has modeled itself on the Siberian tiger, endangered species of which only about 520 copies are distributed among the forests of eastern Russia and northeast China.

A mid-twentieth century, the population of the Siberian tiger ( Panthera tigris altaica ) was much reduced by poaching and habitat destruction. The remaining specimens all went through a bottleneck that affected the genetic diversity of the species.

“Although currently there are about 500 Siberian tigers, the population behaves as if they were only 14 animals due to reduced genetic diversity. This assessment of effective population size is alarming because it demonstrates its fragility and its high sensitivity to any disease, “says Alas.

According to the researcher, the effective population size is a “factor to be taken into account in any demographic or genetic study undertaken on the Siberian tiger.”

In reaching its conclusions, the research team collected samples of blood and tissue of 15 Siberian tigers scattered along the Russian Far East, and worked in the laboratory with DNA extracted from these samples.

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