Dating the cheetah bottleneck
But it has taken just the last few decades for man to place the hunter on the endangered species list, with experts warning it could disappear from the wild by 2030.Unlike rhinos and elephants, the cheetah is not a target in Africa’s poaching bloodbath.
Before England's Industrial Revolution, light colored peppered moths far outnumbered the dark colored variety.It’s an encouraging figure for the survival of the species. “Our research and experience shows that even wild cheetahs that have not had at least 18 months of life with a mother in their natural habitat have a difficult time being re-wilded,” said the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s Marker.“They simply don’t learn the survival skills necessary to sustain themselves in the wild.” Closer to home, Fota Wildlife Park in Cork already has a wealth of experience in dealing with wild cats with its cheetah breeding programme internationally renowned.But it is the only big cat to adapt poorly in wildlife reserves as its natural habitat is increasingly wiped out.“Cheetahs don’t do well in protected wildlife reserves due to increased competition from other larger predators, such as lions and hyenas, which thrive in protected areas,” said Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia.Considering how both natural selection and genetic drift function through genetic diversity, you might reasonably wonder if species with small gene pools can evolve at all.
The cheetah, for instance, once had four distinct subspecies but now has only one after apparently experiencing a population bottleneck.
As pollution from factories covered towns in soot, however, dark colored moths were suddenly much better camouflaged against predatory birds, and within a few decades, the dark colored moth became more prevalent than the light colored variety.
The evolution of the peppered moth is an example of natural selection at work; the genetic variation most suitable to a given environment is the one that thrives.
But not every species is fortunate enough to have a rich and varied gene pool.
For instance, a catastrophic event like an earthquake or rapid climate change might wipe out the majority of a species, leaving only a few genetically similar members to carry on.
“The main limitation to the survival of the species in the wild is reduction and fragmentation of habitat as well as human wildlife conflict,” Marker said.