Jan 6, 2009

New Cheetah Fossils in...China?

photo from Daily Mail

National Geographic is reporting that new fossils out of China have thrown a wrench in the works of the theory that cheetahs originally came from the Americas. There are some arguments over whether this species has been identified before, but it looks to be a pretty big development (for those who care about this sort of thing).

I did a report on the genetic bottleneck of the ancient cheetah populations back when I was a first year in college (when GWB was being elected to his second term...how long ago it all seems). Paleontologists believe that there may have been fewer than ten remaining individuals at the end of the last ice age, resulting in an utter lack of genetic diversity. Cheetahs from different regions in Africa can give and receive skin grafts without rejection of the donor tissue; they are that similar. Cheetahs also suffer from a very, very low sperm count and a very, very high rate of sterility, making their plight more desperate. It's interesting to learn more about how they came to be what they are today.

On another note, there are Asian cheetahs in Iran which are gravely endangered. It's good to see that as wacko as the regime in Iran tends to be, they at least are reasonable enough to seek protection for that treasure.

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