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Driscoll, C. 2002.

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Conservation Genetics of the Far Eastern Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis)
O. Uphyrkina, D. Miquelle, H. Quigley, C. Driscoll and S. J. O'Brien
+ Author Affiliations

From the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD 21702-1201 (Olga Uphyrkina and Stephen J. O'Brien); Wildlife Conservation Society, Bozeman, MT 59719-0970 (Dale Miquelle and Howard Quigley); and SAIC, National Cancer Institute, Frederick, MD 21702-1201 (Carlos Driscoll). Olga Uphyrkina is currently at the Laboratory of Evolutionary Zoology and Genetics, Institute Biology and Soil Sciences, Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladivostok 690022, Russia.
Address correspondence to Stephen J. O'Brien at the address above, or e-mail: obrien@ncifcrf.gov.
Received July 12, 2001.
Accepted August 8, 2002.

[1] The Far Eastern or Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) survives today as a tiny relict population of 25–40 individuals in the Russian Far East. The population descends from a 19th-century northeastern Asian subspecies whose range extended over southeastern Russia, the Korean peninsula, and northeastern China. A molecular genetic survey of nuclear microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence variation validates subspecies distinctiveness but also reveals a markedly reduced level of genetic variation. [2] The amount of genetic diversity measured is the lowest among leopard subspecies and is comparable to the genetically depleted Florida panther and Asiatic lion populations. When considered in the context of nonphysiological perils that threaten small populations (e.g., chance mortality, poaching, climatic extremes, and infectious disease), the genetic and demographic data indicate a critically diminished wild population under severe threat of extinction. An established captive population of P. p. orientalis displays much higher diversity than the wild population sample, but nearly all captive individuals are derived from a history of genetic admixture with the adjacent Chinese subspecies, P. p. japonensis. The conservation management implications of potential restoration/augmentation of the wild population with immigrants from the captive population are discussed.
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