Sumatran Rhinos Have Been On The Way Of Extinction For A Very Long Time

Posted: Dec 16 2017, 2:35pm CST | by , Updated: Dec 16 2017, 2:49pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

Sumatran Rhinos have been on the Way of Extinction for a Very Long Time
f Ipuh, the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) at the Cincinnati Zoo. Credit: Tom Uhlman

Genome evidence suggest that Sumatran rhinos never showed signs of recovery since Pleistocene Epoch

Sumatran rhinos are on the verge of extinction. The species was once widely distributed across Southeast Asia. Today, it is only found in Indonesia and its survival now depends on less than 200 remaining individuals in the wild.

The decline in Sumatran rhino’s population is generally attributed to recent surge in illegal hunting. But researchers have found that the trouble for Sumatran rhinoceros populations began about one million years ago, around the middle of the Pleistocene. Since then, the animal has shown no signs of recovery.

“This species has been well on its way to extinction for a very long time.” said Terri Roth at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. "The Sumatran rhinoceros species is hanging on by a thread."

The findings are based on the analysis of a Sumatran rhino genome. For the first time, an international team of researchers have sequined the genome of a Sumatran rhino that lived in Cincinnati zoo. The rhino named Ipuh died in 2013.

The demographic history of Sumatran rhinos is important for placing the species' current population status into a broader ecological and evolutionary context.

“Our genome sequence data revealed that the Pleistocene was a roller-coaster ride for Sumatran rhinoceros populations.” Herman Mays from Marshall University said.

For the study, researchers used a technique called pairwise sequential Markovian coalescent (PSMC). It allowed them to estimate the population history of a species, covering a time span of many generations, from the genome of a single individual.

Analysis of the Sumatran rhinoceros genome reveals extreme changes in effective population size (the size of a population consistent with the genetic diversity in that population) throughout the Pleistocene.

Researchers estimate that the Sumatran rhinoceros population peaked at an estimated effective population size of approximately 57,800 individuals about 950,000 years ago. By 9,000 years ago, the effective population size was reduced to only about 700 Sumatran rhinos.

Changing climate most likely played a role in the decline of the Sumatran rhinoceros. By the end of the Pleistocene, Sundaland corridor and many other natural habitats submerged. Due to the habitat loss, rhino’s populations shrank. Since that time, Sumatran rhinos became even more vulnerable to later pressures from human activity.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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