What We’re Reading- May 19, 2017

Genetic Diversity of Snow Leopards
Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are endemic to the Altai, Himalaya, and Tibetan uplifts and adapted to high-altitude environments.  They are currently listed as an endangered species by IUCN.  This new paper investigated genetic diversity of snow leopards across their range.  They found that the cats have low genetic diversity in part due to a population bottleneck ~8,000 years ago.  They also observed that snow leopards in the northern Altai Mountains in Mongolia were genetically differentiated from the southern mountains and that a finer-scale spatial structure existed within each population suggesting limited dispersal.  These results will help inform local conservation efforts of snow leopards across their range.

Side photo of a snow leopard by Tom and Pat Leeson via ARKive.

Climate Change and Pathogens
The last time we wrote about chestnuts, it was in the context of biotech solutions to disrupt the pathogenicity of chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica).  In that piece we wondered how the pathogen would evolve in the future to increase its virulence.  But of course the pathogen is also evolving to other environmental stressors including climate change.  Unfortunately, chestnut blight continues to invade new areas and the pathogen was introduced into France before 1956 (the first reported sighting) and has spread northward.  This paper (sub) first described genetic structure across the country, then smartly tested the growth rate of the pathogen in the lab under temperatures found in northern and southern France.  They observed that southern isolates grew faster at warmer temperatures, and northern isolates grew faster at cooler temperatures.  It will be interesting to watch this story as the researchers identify the genomic basis for the temperature adaptation, which may provide another target for biotech solutions to disrupt pathogen growth allowing American and European chestnuts to thrive.

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