Sport hunting of African lions has weakened them by restricting their genetic diversity

African lion male
African lion male. Picture in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

A study lead by a conservation biologist at the Zoological Society of London, Simon Dures, has produced compelling but not conclusive evidence that sport hunting of African lions has made them physically less strong than they were 100 years ago because it has made lions’ genetic makeup less diverse.

“We show that the genetic diversity of the modern population was reduced by 12% to 17%, with a reduction in allelic diversity of approximately 15%, compared to historic populations..” – the study abstract.

My thoughts are that this means that the lions are more inbred today than they were 100 years ago. This is unhealthy. Genetic diversity creates healthier animals with stronger immune systems. In the cat breeding world (the cat fancy) it is called inbreeding depression.

Should the conclusion be valid it adds to the pressure to curb trophy hunting in Africa.

Dures said: ‘Our analysis demonstrates that over the past century, the lion population of the Kavango–Zambezi region has lost genetic diversity.’

The team compared the genetics of modern day lions with historical examples from the Kavango–Zambezi region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe).

The study is titled: A century of decline: Loss of genetic diversity in a southern African lion‐conservation stronghold.

P.S. Cheetahs are inbred. It is a well-known fact.

Source: Daily Mail online and biorxiv.org

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