Molecular censusing doubles estimate of key giant panda population

June 19, 2006

Employing a noninvasive technique that uses genetic information to identify individual pandas in the wild, researchers have revised--upward--size estimates of a key giant panda population in China. The research is reported in the June 20th issue of Current Biology by a team of scientists from China and the UK, including Fuwen Wei of the Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Michael W. Bruford of Cardiff University.

The giant panda is one of the world's most charismatic endangered species and has an emblematic status for the conservation movement worldwide. Its attraction stems in part from its elusive nature: A wary creature with an unusual dietary dependence on bamboos, it is now found only in a restricted mountainous region in China. These characteristics have also shielded important knowledge needed to save the panda from extinction.

Understanding population trends for giant pandas has been a major task for conservation authorities in China for the past thirty years, during which three increasingly sophisticated national surveys were carried out. The first two revealed alarming evidence for declines across the giant panda's range. However, the most recent survey, completed in 2002, showed the first evidence of a recovery, thanks largely to protection measures taken by the Chinese government, including support for a network of natural reserves and strictly enforced bans on poaching and deforestation.

Nonetheless, given the variable accuracy of traditional ecological census methods, other approaches to accurately estimating panda population size are needed. In the new work, the Chinese and UK researchers re-examined the ecological estimate for a key reserve population of giant pandas in Wanglang Nature Reserve. To boost the accuracy of their study, they used recently developed noninvasive techniques, including DNA sequence profiling from fecal samples, that have been successfully used for censusing wild animal populations. The researchers found that the most recent survey likely underestimated the giant panda population by more than 50%. Moreover, the population showed no genetic trace of a demographic "bottleneck" in the recent past, implying that the population may not have been diminished to such tiny numbers as commonly feared.

If these results were to be replicated in other key reserves (and the authors state that this is not unlikely), then there may now be many more giant pandas remaining in the wild than previously thought. This finding indicates that the species may have a significantly better chance of long-term viability than recently anticipated, and that this beautiful animal may have a brighter future.
-end-
The researchers include Xiangjiang Zhan, Ming Li, and Fuwen Wei of the Institute of Zoology (IOZ), Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, People's Republic of China; Zejun Zhang of the Institute of Zoology (IOZ), Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and China West Normal University in Sichuan, People's Republic of China; Benoit Goossens and Michael Bruford of Cardiff University in Cardiff, United Kingdom; Youping Chen of Wanglang Nature Reserve in Sichuan, People's Republic of China; Hongjia, Wang of Sichuan Forestry Department in Sichuan, People's Republic of China.

Zhan et al.: "Correspondence: Molecular censusing doubles giant panda population estimate in a key nature reserve." Publishing in Current Biology 16, R451-2, June 20, 2006 www.current-biology.com

Cell Press

Related Genetic Information Articles from Brightsurf:

Genetic information can predict predisposition to rare and common blood diseases
Two large-scale genetic studies have identified the bulk of genetic variation that influences medically-important characteristics of our blood cells.

Biomedical research may miss key information by ignoring genetic ancestry
A new study of Black residents of four distinct US cities reveals variations in genetic ancestry and social status that underscore the inadequacy of using skin color as a proxy for race in research.

Combining genetic information with EMRs to pinpoint childhood epilepsies
A team of researchers further bridged the gap between genomic information and clinical outcome data by systematically linking genetic information with electronic medical records, focusing on how genetic neurological disorders in children develop over time.

New imaging method gives insights into how bacteria move and exchange genetic information
Scientists have made a pivotal breakthrough in advancing our understanding of how bacteria move and perform genetic exchange -- that could potentially lead to the development of new antimicrobial drugs.

New tool helps gather useful genetic information obtained from blood, skin tissues
Hoping to refine the usefulness of RNA sequencing, a team of researchers reviewed a database of RNA sequencing results in non-clinically-accessible tissues from organs like the brain and heart.

Computational human cell reveals new insight on genetic information processing
Researchers have developed the first computational model of a human cell and simulated its behavior for 15 minutes -- the longest time achieved for a biological system of this complexity.

Calculating genetic links between diseases, without the genetic data
In a new study, data scientists from the University of Chicago estimated heritability and mapped out relationships among thousands of diseases using data from electronic health records.

Foraging for information: Machine learning decodes genetic influence over behavior
Mice scurry around while foraging for food, but genetics may be the unseen hand controlling these meandering movements.

Bringing information into the cell
Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI have elucidated an important part of a signal pathway that transmits information through the cell membrane into the interior of a cell.

Researchers find new genetic information behind urogenital track anomalies
Researchers at the University of Helsinki have developed a new mouse model of congenital anomalies of kidney and urinary tract and disease progression.

Read More: Genetic Information News and Genetic Information Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.