Biology Faculty Articles

Title

Conservation Genetics of the Far Eastern Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis)

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-2002

Publication Title

Journal of Heredity

ISSN

0022-1503

Volume

93

Issue/No.

5

First Page

303

Last Page

311

Abstract

The Far Eastern or Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) survives today as a tiny relict population of 25–40 individuals in the Russian Far East. The population descends from a 19th-century northeastern Asian subspecies whose range extended over southeastern Russia, the Korean peninsula, and northeastern China. A molecular genetic survey of nuclear microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation validates subspecies distinctiveness but also reveals a markedly reduced level of genetic variation. The amount of genetic diversity measured is the lowest among leopard subspecies and is comparable to the genetically depleted Florida panther and Asiatic lion populations. When considered in the context of nonphysiological perils that threaten small populations (e.g., chance mortality, poaching, climatic extremes, and infectious disease), the genetic and demographic data indicate a critically diminished wild population under severe threat of extinction. An established captive population of P. p. orientalis displays much higher diversity than the wild population sample, but nearly all captive individuals are derived from a history of genetic admixture with the adjacent Chinese subspecies, P. p. japonensis. The conservation management implications of potential restoration/augmentation of the wild population with immigrants from the captive population are discussed.

Comments

©2002 The American Genetic Association

ORCID ID

0000-0001-7353-8301

ResearcherID

N-1726-2015

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