A research team, led by Institute of Zoology of Chinese Academy of Sciences and BGI, has successfully reconstructed a continuous population history of the giant panda from its origin to the present.
The findings suggested whereas global changes in climate were the primary drivers in panda population fluctuation for millions of years, human activities were likely to underlie recent population divergence and serious decline. This work reveals a good example for assessing and establishing the best conservation method for other endangered species. The latest study was published online in Nature Genetics.
The giant panda is the rarest member of the bear family. Looked upon as the ambassador for all endangered species, it is a well-recognized symbol of international wildlife conservation. The giant panda is currently threatened by continued habitat loss, human persecution, among others. Its dietary specialization, habitat isolation, and reproductive constraints have led to a perception that this is a species at an "evolutionary dead end", destined for deterministic extinction in the modern world.
In this study, researchers carried out whole genome resequencing of 34 wild giant pandas and found the current six geographic populations of giant panda could be divided into three genetic populations, including Qinling (QIN), Minshan (MIN) and Qionglai-Daxiangling-Xiaoxiangling-Liangshan (QXL). Through reconstructing giant panda's population history, they found several important evolutionary events such as two population expansions, two bottlenecks and two population divergences.
The giant panda has a very special bamboo diet, while its ancestor was omnivorous or carnivores. As early as about 3 Myr ago, they probably had already completed their dietary swift and pygmy panda emerged with bamboo as its primary diet. The warm and wet weather at that time provided ideal conditions for the spread of bamboo forests that further led to the first population expansion of giant panda. However, about 0.7 Myr ago, the panda population began to decline due to the two largest Pleistocene glaciations happened in China, and its first population bottleneck occurred at about 0.3 Myr ago. During that period, pygmy panda was gradually replaced by another subspecies - baconi panda that has larger body size.
After the retreat of the Penultimate Glaciations, giant panda's second population expansion happened and it reached its population peak between 30~50 thousand years (kyr) ago. The warm weather in the Greatest Lake Period (30~40 kyr ago) and alpine conifer forest may play an important role in the flourishing of the panda population. However, during the period of last glacial maximum (LGM), the climate was cold, dry, and inhospitable with frequent storms and a dust-laden atmosphere. Under such harsh environment, extensive panda habitats were loss and its second population bottleneck occurred.
The more recent panda population history showed that the panda population separated into Qinling (QIN) and non-QIN populations at about 0.3Myr ago, and then the non-QIN cluster diverged into two populations, the Minshan (MIN) and Qionglai-Daxiangling-Xiaoxiangling-Liangshan (QXL) at about 2.8 KYA ago. Subsequently, the three populations were different in the ways of fluctuation. For example, there was a drastic decline in the QIN, a slight increase in the MIN and a more remarkable growth in the QXL populations.
Researchers identified the signals of panda's local adaptation. They found the largest group of selected genes in these populations was related to sensory system. However, the two genes, Tas2r49 and Tas2r3, were associated with bitter taste and were under directional selection between the QIN and non-QIN populations, showing no signal of directional selection between MIN and QXL populations.
As a form of olfactory communication, odor perception is crucial for reproduction and survival of giant pandas in the dense forest. Researchers found the MIN and QXL populations had fewer directionally selected genes than QIN and non-QIN, suggesting less variation happens in the selection processes between MIN and QXL. They also found the evidence that population fluctuations were driven by global climate shifts, but recent human activities have likely caused population divergence and the serious recent decline.
Shancen Zhao, Project Manager from BGI, said, "We have identified three genetic populations of giant panda for the current six geographic populations lived in western of China. The varied local adaptations found in our study provide invaluable resource for researchers to better select effective conservation methods to rescue the giant panda even other endangered species. The translocation of wild-caught individuals or releasing the captive-bred ones may be a feasible approach. "
BGI was founded in 1999 with the mission of being a premier scientific partner to the global research community. The goal of BGI is to make leading-edge genomic science highly accessible through its investment in infrastructure that leverages the best available technology, economies of scale, and expert bioinformatics resources. BGI, which includes both private non-profit genomic research institutes and sequencing application commercial units, and its affiliates, BGI Americas, headquartered in Cambridge, MA, and BGI Europe, headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, have established partnerships and collaborations with leading academic and government research institutions as well as global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, supporting a variety of disease, agricultural, environmental, and related applications.
BGI has established a proven track record of excellence, delivering results with high efficiency and accuracy for innovative, high-profile research which has generated over 250 publications in top-tier journals such as Nature and Science. These accomplishments include sequencing one percent of the human genome for the International Human Genome Project, contributing 10 percent to the International Human HapMap Project, carrying out research to combat SARS and German deadly E. coli, playing a key role in the Sino-British Chicken Genome Project, and completing the sequence of the rice genome, the silkworm genome, the first Asian diploid genome, the potato genome, and, most recently, have sequenced the human Gut metagenome, and a significant proportion of the genomes for 1,000 genomes. For more information about BGI please visit www.genomics.cn.
Public Communication Officer
Jia Liu | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.genomics.cn
More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:
Ant Study Could Help Future Robot Teams Work Underground
21.05.2013 | Georgia Institute of Technology, Research Communications
Canada must addess real climate-change challenge
16.05.2013 | University of Toronto
University of Würzburg physicists have succeeded in creating a new type of laser.
Its operation principle is completely different from conventional devices, which opens up the possibility of a significantly reduced energy input requirement. The researchers report their work in the current issue of Nature.
It also emits light the waves of which are in phase with one another: the polariton laser, developed ...
Innsbruck physicists led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller experimentally gained a deep insight into the nature of quantum mechanical phase transitions.
They are the first scientists that simulated the competition between two rival dynamical processes at a novel type of transition between two quantum mechanical orders. They have published the results of their work in the journal Nature Physics.
“When water boils, its molecules are released as vapor. We call this ...
Researchers have shown that, by using global positioning systems (GPS) to measure ground deformation caused by a large underwater earthquake, they can provide accurate warning of the resulting tsunami in just a few minutes after the earthquake onset.
For the devastating Japan 2011 event, the team reveals that the analysis of the GPS data and issue of a detailed tsunami alert would have taken no more than three minutes. The results are published on 17 May in Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, an open access journal of ...
A new study of glaciers worldwide using observations from two NASA satellites has helped resolve differences in estimates of how fast glaciers are disappearing and contributing to sea level rise.
The new research found glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, repositories of 1 percent of all land ice, lost an average of 571 trillion pounds (259 trillion kilograms) of mass every year during the six-year study period, making the oceans rise 0.03 inches (0.7 mm) per year. ...
About 99% of the world’s land ice is stored in the huge ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland, while only 1% is contained in glaciers.
However, the meltwater of glaciers contributed almost as much to the rise in sea level in the period 2003 to 2009 as the two ice sheets: about one third. This is one of the results of an international study with the involvement of geographers from the University of Zurich.
21.05.2013 | Studies and Analyses
21.05.2013 | Life Sciences
21.05.2013 | Studies and Analyses
17.05.2013 | Event News
15.05.2013 | Event News
08.05.2013 | Event News