Saturday, September 30, 2006

Reading: Tears of the Cheetah

This was a fascinating look at molecular biology and genetics. It was well written and some complicated science was made understandable to the layperson, such as myself :).

It was really interesting to discover how little genetic diversity there is in cheetahs, most likely resulting from a population bottleneck (ie. they were nearly wiped out towards the end of the Pleistocene, at the same time sabre-tooth tigers, mastodons and giant ground sloths went extinct). This meant they had limited mate choice and are very inbred (to the same extent as lab mice!): their lack of diversity means they have significant fertility issues and their immune systems are easily compromised. But it's pretty hopeful that they have survived thus far, and will acquire more diversity in time.

There were some very sad and disturbing elements to these memoirs of Stephen O'Brien's studies, such as the continued practice of consuming bushmeat (which is monkey/primate. Many of these animals are carriers of SIDS, and this is believed to be the method AIDS was first transmitted to humans).

But generally there are some silver linings and great hopes for the future.

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