Nav: Home

First genome sequence of Amur leopard highlights the drawback of a meat only diet

November 01, 2016

The first whole genome sequence of the Far Eastern Amur leopard is published in the open access journal Genome Biology, providing new insight into carnivory and how it impacts on genetic diversity and population size.

Mr. Yunsung Cho, lead author from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, said: "Using the Amur leopard genome and comparing it to that of other mammalian genomes we found that carnivory seems to be a strong selection force for genes involved in dietary adaptation - something not as apparent in mammals that are omnivores or herbivores. For example, cows could eat meat without it having a major impact on their health, but leopards eating grass would quickly die as they have evolved to survive on meat."

Specialized diets result in physiological, biochemical and morphological adaptations and carnivory is considered to be an evolutionary instable diet. Current research shows that animals in the cat family, Felidae, have relatively low genetic diversity and small population sizes. This could be due to the inflexible nature of their strict diet and explains their vulnerability and critical conservation status.

Mr. Cho explained: "Carnivory related genetic adaptations such as extreme agility, muscle power and specialized diet make leopards such successful predators, but these lifestyle traits also make them genetically vulnerable."

An international team of researchers sequenced the Amur leopard genome using a muscle sample of a female from Korea. They then analyzed a further 18 mammalian genomes including eight carnivores (domestic cat, tiger, cheetah, lion, leopard, polar bear, killer whale and Tasmanian devil), five omnivores (human, mouse, dog, pig, and opossum) and five herbivores (giant panda, cow, horse, rabbit, and elephant). Comparing the genomes they found that carnivores share two genes that are not present in other genomes that play an important role in bone development and repair, which could drive selection for a diet specialized towards meat.

Professor Steve O'Brien, who has been researching rare endangered cat species for decades emphasizes that "Leopards are the most widespread species of the big cats, found in Africa to the Russian Far East, and thrive in a variety of environments. However, populations are fast declining, especially the Amur leopard, which is now critically endangered and perhaps the most endangered animal species on Earth."

This is the first de novo genome assembly and the second leopard genome to be sequenced following the snow leopard published in 2013. The researchers hope that this Amur leopard reference genome will serve as a useful tool for understanding Felidae evolution and aid conservation.

Dr. Soonok Kim, who initiated and led the project as the PI of National Institute of Biological Resources of Korea adds: "Cats are also a good model for studying health issues, such as human diabetes, and this new leopard genome reference is an environmental treasure that could help us understand these conditions further."
-end-
Notes to editors

1. Images are available. Please contact Alanna Orpen.

2. Comparison of three dietary groups in mammals: carnivore, omnivore, and herbivore genome analyses with a new leopard assembly
Soonok Kim, Yun Sung Cho, Hak-Min Kim et al.
Genome Biology 2016

During the embargo period, please contact Alanna Orpen for a copy of the article.

After the embargo lifts, the article will be available at the journal website here: https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-016-1071-4

Please name the journal in any story you write. If you are writing for the web, please link to the article. All articles are available free of charge, according to BioMed Central's open access policy.

3. Genome Biology covers all areas of biology and biomedicine studied from a genomic and post-genomic perspective. Content includes research, new methods and software tools, and reviews, opinions and commentaries. Areas covered include, but are not limited to: sequence analysis; bioinformatics; insights into molecular, cellular and organismal biology; functional genomics; epigenomics; population genomics; proteomics; comparative biology and evolution; systems and network biology; genomics of disease; and clinical genomics. All content is open access immediately on publication.

4. BioMed Central is an STM (Science, Technology and Medicine) publisher which has pioneered the open access publishing model. All peer-reviewed research articles published by BioMed Central are made immediately and freely accessible online, and are licensed to allow redistribution and reuse. BioMed Central is part of Springer Nature, a major new force in scientific, scholarly, professional and educational publishing, created in May 2015 through the combination of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer Science+Business Media. http://www.biomedcentral.com

BioMed Central

Related Genetic Diversity Articles:

Rare genetic disorders: New approach uses RNA in search for genetic triggers
In about half of all patients with rare hereditary disorders, it is still unclear what position of the genome is responsible for their condition.
Major genetic study identifies 12 new genetic variants for ovarian cancer
A genetic trawl through the DNA of almost 100,000 people, including 17,000 patients with the most common type of ovarian cancer, has identified 12 new genetic variants that increase risk of developing the disease and confirmed the association of 18 of the previously published variants.
Use of fetal genetic sequencing increases the detection rate of genetic findings
In a study to be presented Thursday, Jan. 26, in the oral plenary session at 8 a.m.
Diversity without limits
Now, researchers at Temple and Oakland universities have completed a new tree of prokaryotic life calibrated to time, assembled from 11,784 species of bacteria.
Threatened by diversity
Psychologist Brenda Major identifies what may be a key factor in many white Americans' support for Donald Trump.
Genetic diversity crucial to Florida scrub-jay's survival
Legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold once advised: 'To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.' For the endangered Florida scrub-jay, new research shows that saving every last grouping among its small and scattered remnant populations is vital to preserving genetic diversity -- and the long-term survival of the species.
Genetic diversity of enzymes alters metabolic individuality
Scientists from Tohoku University's Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization have published research about genetic diversity and metabolome in Scientific Reports.
Expanded prenatal genetic testing may increase detection of carrier status for potentially serious genetic conditions
In an analysis that included nearly 350,000 adults of diverse racial and ethnic background, expanded carrier screening for up to 94 severe or profound conditions may increase the detection of carrier status for a variety of potentially serious genetic conditions compared with current recommendations from professional societies, according to a study appearing in the Aug.
Fix for 3-billion-year-old genetic error could dramatically improve genetic sequencing
Researchers found a fix for a 3-billion-year-old glitch in one of the major carriers of information needed for life, RNA, which until now produced errors when making copies of genetic information.
Genetic diversity important for plant survival when nitrogen inputs increase
Genetic diversity is important for plant species to persist in Northern forests that experience human nitrogen inputs.

Related Genetic Diversity Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".