BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY

Researchers at BYU successfully sequenced the entire genome of leopard species going extinct

Dec 14, 2022, 6:04 PM
Researchers at the BYU and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute used samples from one cap...
Researchers at the BYU and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute used samples from one captive mainland clouded leopard and one wild Sunda clouded leopard.(Photo credit: Nate Edwards/BYU Photo. Courtesy Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.)
(Photo credit: Nate Edwards/BYU Photo. Courtesy Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.)

PROVO, Utah — Researchers at the Brigham Young University and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are trying to protect the Sunda clouded leopard and the Mainland clouded leopard species through genetic research. In doing so, the team successfully sequenced the entire genome of both species for the first time. 

Contrary to previous research, the new study proved clouded leopards diverged into two separate species much earlier than previously thought. A release from BYU said the clouded leopards diverged 5.1 million years ago.

Previous estimates were 1.5 to 2 million years ago. This divergence is older than ones between species, such as leopards and lions. 

Researchers used samples from one captive Mainland clouded leopard and one wild Sunda clouded leopard.

Colleagues of researchers at BYU and the SCBI captured a wild Sunda cloud leopard to get the samples needed. The release did not state where the Mainland clouded leopard was captured from.

Why the research matters

BYU professor and study author Paul Frandsen said this knowledge is important to help preserve special variation within the species.

“The deeper the species divergence, the more genetic differences are accumulated over time. If two species diverged 5 million years ago versus 2 million years ago, that just gives a lot more time for the genome to accumulate unique variation,” said Frandsen. “That’s critical for conservation because we want to maintain that unique variation within the species.”

Furthermore, this new study confirms studies from 2006 proving that the two species of clouded leopards are genetically distinct. Prior to the 2006 studies, researchers believed the two species were one. 

“These two species still look really similar and if one of them ran past me in the wild, there’s no way I would be able to tell you which one it was,” Frandsen said.

Additionally, the research helps conservation managers to better understand how the species may adapt to changing environments differently. 

“This BYU study is important to the future conservation of the species because while we knew that there were two separate species of cloud of leopard, we did not realize exactly how distinct they were and how long ago in time they diverged,” said Laura Shipp, a zookeeper who cares for two clouded leopards at the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium. 

She also said how knowing the distinctions changes how to approach saving both species.

Related reading:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Brigham Young University

lake restoration...
Mark Jones

BYU study: Great Salt Lake could dry up in 5 years if changes aren’t made

A study co-authored by a BYU professor says the Great Salt Lake could be gone in five years unless changes are made.
14 days ago
The Brigham Young University campus in Provo is pictured on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Deseret News)...
Heather McShane

First Black student at BYU walked the halls over eight decades ago

The first black student at BYU was actually a master's student named Norman Wilson studying agricultural economics.
23 days ago
video game...
Elizabeth Weiler

BYU students win international award for video game

The interactive computer game in question is titled Liminus: The Silent Guard, it was initially created as a capstone project for nearly 50 students.
2 months ago
BYU...
Mark Jackson

BYU wellness students return from Blue zone with healthy lifestyle tips

Some BYU students are learning how to live healthy and happier lives from a trip to Ikaria, Greece.
3 months ago
The anticipation of hosting the Arkansas Razorbacks will not be the only source of excitement at BY...
Elizabeth Weiler

BYU to host Arkansas with a Fighter Wings flyover

The anticipation of hosting the Arkansas Razorbacks will not be the only source of excitement at BYU's stadium this Saturday. Hill fighter wings will perform a flyer-over. 
4 months ago
A new exhibition is opening soon at the BYU Museum of Art....
Waverly Golden

New exhibition coming to the BYU Museum of Art, depicts 20th century African American History

A new exhibition is opening soon at the BYU Museum of Art on October 15, 2022, featuring over 50 works depicting African American History.
4 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Skier being towed by a rider on a horse. Skijoring....
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking for a New Winter Activity? Try Skijoring in Bear Lake

This article about skijoring is sponsored by the Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau. Participate in Skijoring the Bear on February 20th, 2023.  What is skijoring? Skijoring is when someone on skis is pulled by a horse, dog, animal, or motor vehicle. The driver leads the skiers through an obstacle course over jumps, hoops, and […]
Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Researchers at BYU successfully sequenced the entire genome of leopard species going extinct