Saturday, December 12, 2015

     The cheetah is on its way to extinction today due to its unfortunate gene pool. Researchers from the St. Petersburg State University in Russia have collaborated with BGI in China and CCF in Namibia to sequence the genome of a male Namibian cheetah and six other wild cheetahs from Tanzania and Namibia. The found further insight as to why the cheetahs have such an impoverish gene pool which elevates juvenile mortality, causes extreme abnormalities in sperm development, and increases vulnerability to infectious disease outbreaks. 
     Interesting enough, there was damage in one specific gene, AKAP4, which hinders sperm development and may explain why cheetahs have a large proportion of defective sperm, and thus low reproductive reproductive success. 
     It is believed that the cheetah is a a descendant of the relative of the American puma and their fossil records extends to the Americas, Europe, and Asia. The population suffered two known bottleneck effect, which is an event that reduces a population through environmental factors. 
One of the bottlenecks took place 100,000 years ago in the late Pleistocene era, which was a period shaped by repeated glaciations. This was when cheetahs started to move toward Asia across the Beringian land bridge and then they travelled south to Africa. This increased incestuous mating. The second bottleneck occurred around 10- to 12,000 years ago, which caused further loss of endemic variability observed in modern cheetahs. This was when cheetahs disappeared from North America due to the loss of the last glacial retreat.

    I find this article to be interesting because conservation biology particularly interests me. The fact that scientists are able to discover so much of the history of one animal speaks volumes. It gives insight in what conservation biologists can do to prevent the extinction of the cheetah species.


  1. Melanie, I found your article very interesting. I knew that cheetahs were on their way to extinction however, I did not know that it was not due to hunters. I always thought they were an endangered species due to their fur being attractive to hunters. I was intrigued reading about how they have defective sperm and learning about how they are a population that has suffered from the bottleneck effect. Do you think that there will be research on how to reverse the effects of this endangerment?

  2. Reproductive problem in cheetahs is what has hindered conservation efforts for a long time, and I suspected there was a few genes involved from those bottlenecks that did it. Finally identifying a factor of it would help conservation efforts immensely, especially if they can find a way to silence the defective gene or make it work proper. Looking forwrads to the next few years and seeing what happens!

  3. interesting, really great article. Your posts never cease to amaze me always ground breaking stuff in the modern world of science.