Today is World Lion Day (RAWR) so to celebrate I am going to share with you a paper recently published by a close colleague of mine, Dr. Laura Bertola, and company. Laura completed her PhD at Universiteit Leiden (that’s in the Netherlands) last year on genetic diversity of the lion focusing on phylogenetic patterns and how populations in West and Central Africa fall in comparison to the rest of the population.
In their recent publication, they “challenge current lion taxonomy” emphasizing the need for rethinking the way we view the species on the population level. To challenge taxonomy means they question how the species is classified or labeled. For the lion, currently there are two officially recognized subspecies (internationally or nationally).
Panthera leo leo and Panthera leo persica (CITES/IUCN: International)
Laura and her colleagues argue there should be more.
Based on their phylogeny (the pretty tree looking thing on the right), there is a definite North Group and South Group (similar to the findings in my study). Within each of these groups, they were able to identify regions which could narrows lions down further into 6 populations. So, very basically, they’re saying from these findings they can put a lion into 1 of 6 groups based on these genetic markers.