Research Highlights: Scientists Discovered Low Genetic Diversity Among Modern Rhinoceroses


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Scientists Discovered Low Genetic Diversity Among Modern Rhinoceroses

August 25, 2021

  • The relationships among rhinoceros species and the time they diverged have been a question by evolutionary biologists.
  • Rhinoceroses were once a diverse group of animals.
  • There are only five species in the family of modern rhinoceros which are highly endangered and priorities for conservation.
  • Biologists had difficulty reconstructing the evolutionary history of rhinoceros.
  • Researchers sequenced genomes from five rhinoceros species, three of which are from an extinct and two from a living.
  • Researchers compared genomes to existing data from the remaining three living species and some out-groups.
  • They identified an early separation between existing African and Eurasian lineages.
  • The discovery resolved a key debate about the phylogeny of the existing rhinoceros.
  • This early Miocene split post-dates the land bridge formation between Eurasia and the Afro-Arabian land.
  • Analyses showed that rhinoceros genomes have low levels of diversity.
  • Researchers also discovered that inbreeding is highest in modern rhinoceros.
  • Low genetic diversity is a long-term feature of modern rhinoceros.
  • Recently, the low genetic diversity of modern rhinoceros has been made worse probably due to population decline by human-driven activity.

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Sources:

Liu, S., Westbury, M. V., Dussex, N., Mitchell, K. J., Sinding, M. S., Heintzman, P. D., Duchêne, D. A., Kapp, J. D., von Seth, J., Heiniger, H., Sánchez-Barreiro, F., Margaryan, A., André-Olsen, R., De Cahsan, B., Meng, G., Yang, C., Chen, L., van der Valk, T., Moodley, Y., Rookmaaker, K., … Gilbert, M. (2021). Ancient and modern genomes unravel the evolutionary history of the rhinoceros family. Cell, 184(19), 4874–4885.e16. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.07.032. https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(21)00891-6