Nav: Home

New hope for world's most endangered mammal

November 07, 2018

New genetic analysis of white rhino populations suggests it could be possible to rescue the critically endangered northern white rhinoceros from extinction, using the genes of its less threatened southern cousin.

Analysing genetic samples from 232 rhinos, researchers from Cardiff University and the University of Venda found that despite the northern and southern populations of white rhinos splitting from each other one million years ago they have occasionally shared genes during cold and arid periods, when African grasslands expanded, as recent as 14,000 years ago.

Dr Isa-Rita Russo from Cardiff University, said: "By looking at the white rhino's population history we've been able to establish that there was contact between northern and southern rhino populations throughout history.

"This is an exciting find! Genetic proof of contact between the populations suggests it may be possible to successfully rescue the northern white rhinoceros using southern white rhinoceros genes to create embryos, although further data would need to be collected to confirm this."

White rhinoceros distribution across Africa is divided into populations in the north and south. The southern population declined to its lowest number around the turn of the nineteenth century, but recovered to become the world's most numerous rhinoceros. In contrast, the northern population was common during much of the twentieth century, declining rapidly since the 1970s, leaving only two remaining post-reproductive rhinos.

The team also found that population decline was very different in the north and south, with the northern white rhinoceros declining about 1,370 years ago, coincident with the Bantu migration, and the southern white rhinoceros declining during colonialism, starting 400 years ago.

Professor Yoshan Moodley, University of Venda, said: "It appears that the white rhinoceros is no stranger to low genetic diversity, as our results show that the species was subjected to several climatically and anthropogenically driven population declines, which would have reduced and compressed genetic diversity in the past.

"This is one of the few large animals to survive the last ice age, and it seems that the additional human pressure on an already genetically compromised species has pushed the white rhinoceros further along the road to extinction."
-end-


Cardiff University

Related Genes Articles:

Insomnia genes found
An international team of researchers has found, for the first time, seven risk genes for insomnia.
Genes affecting our communication skills relate to genes for psychiatric disorder
By screening thousands of individuals, an international team led by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, the University of Bristol, the Broad Institute and the iPSYCH consortium has provided new insights into the relationship between genes that confer risk for autism or schizophrenia and genes that influence our ability to communicate during the course of development.
The fate of Neanderthal genes
The Neanderthals disappeared about 30,000 years ago, but little pieces of them live on in the form of DNA sequences scattered through the modern human genome.
Face shape is in the genes
Many of the characteristics that make up a person's face, such as nose size and face width, stem from specific genetic variations, reports John Shaffer of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, and colleagues, in a study published on Aug.
Study finds hundreds of genes and genetic codes that regulate genes tied to alcoholism
Using rats carefully bred to either drink large amounts of alcohol or to spurn it, researchers at Indiana and Purdue universities have identified hundreds of genes that appear to play a role in increasing the desire to drink alcohol.
Reading between the genes
For a long time dismissed as 'junk DNA,' we now know that also the regions between the genes fulfill vital functions.
The silence of the genes
Research led by Dr. Keiji Tanimoto from the University of Tsukuba, Japan, has brought us closer to understanding the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon of genomic imprinting.
Why some genes are highly expressed
The DNA in our cells is folded into millions of small packets, like beads on a string, allowing our two-meter linear DNA genomes to fit into a nucleus of only about 0.01 mm in diameter.
Activating genes on demand
A new approach developed by Harvard geneticist George Church, Ph.D., can help uncover how tandem gene circuits dictate life processes, such as the healthy development of tissue or the triggering of a particular disease, and can also be used for directing precision stem cell differentiation for regenerative medicine and growing organ transplants.
Controlling genes with light
Researchers at Duke University have demonstrated a new way to activate genes with light, allowing precisely controlled and targeted genetic studies and applications.

Related Genes 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

Jumpstarting Creativity
Our greatest breakthroughs and triumphs have one thing in common: creativity. But how do you ignite it? And how do you rekindle it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on jumpstarting creativity. Guests include economist Tim Harford, producer Helen Marriage, artificial intelligence researcher Steve Engels, and behavioral scientist Marily Oppezzo.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#524 The Human Network
What does a network of humans look like and how does it work? How does information spread? How do decisions and opinions spread? What gets distorted as it moves through the network and why? This week we dig into the ins and outs of human networks with Matthew Jackson, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and author of the book "The Human Network: How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs, and Behaviours".