The Sumatran rhinoceros genome is healthy despite its small population – Darwin and God

Dear reader, greetings to Kertam. It is a young Sumatran rhinoceros, a member of an extremely endangered species – by the way, it is estimated that it is the most endangered mammal in the world, with fewer than a hundred surviving specimens. I agree that the situation is dire, but the first study of the entire animal genome to “spell out” Kertam’s own DNA brings good news amidst the calamity.

It happens that species with a reduced population have a tendency to inbreed. With few partner options, animals often mate with close relatives. This is very bad for the puppy’s health as it tends to focus genes related to diseases, deformities, etc. on the same individuals.

Fortunately, however, this has not yet happened to the rhino populations on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo (Southeast Asia). The new research team, led by Johanna von Seth from the Center for Paleogenetics in Stockholm, Sweden, showed that inbreeding still does not significantly affect the remaining pachyderms, probably because severe population loss is a current phenomenon of the species. To prevent the worst, Sumatran rhinos need protection to keep their population growing again.

The study on the genome of the species is in the journal Nature Communications.


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