The innovative part of this analysis was the addition of a comparison to other species who are recognized to have subspecies and show similar Sub-Saharan population distribution. The study identified 46 animals that show a distinction between West/Central African and East/Southern Africa populations. While some animals are recognized as being more than one species – known as a complex – such as Baboon (5), Rock hyrax (5) and Oryx (3), others are species separated into subspecies, such as Giraffe (9; below), Black (4) and White (2) Rhino, and Caracal (8). Only 13 of the 46 animals aren’t separated between West/Central and East/Southern, including the lion, according to CITES.
The ESA classification is a little closer to demonstrating the Sub-Saharan distribution taxonomically by clumping the West/Central population with the Asiatic population. However, based on these results, lions may be able to be classified even more specifically. Hopefully my research will be able to shed a little more light on this. The help Laura is giving me to continue this investigation is immeasurable.
In case you forgot, today is also National S'more Day and I just bought this....
from San Diego based online marshmallow shop Mallow Mallow.
If you haven’t heard yet, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) has made a ruling to list the lion as two subspecies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Effective today, under the ESA (this is an important distinction), the lion will now be Panthera leo leo and Panthera leo melanchaita.
The ruling also includes some new regulations on hunting permit requirements. Anyone convicted of or who has pled guilty to violations of wildlife laws will be denied a permit. They will also only allow the importation of sport-hunted trophies from countries with established conservation programs and well-managed lion populations to help support and strengthen the accountability of conservation programs in other nations.
This ruling seems fair but their use of previously and currently used subspecies names may get a little convoluted in the overall scheme of things. It seems as though USFWS is showing a genuine concern in looking after the best interest of the African lion but I think more research is still needed (and not just because I’m one of the ones doing it) to make decisions that will be beneficial for both the lions and the countries they live in.
There isn't much genetic research on the puma (FYI: puma, cougar, mountain lion, catamount, panther... all the same thing, just depends on where you are and who you talk to). The scientific community seems to be quite torn about taxonomic assessment and there has been much debate around subspecies distinction, particularly in the case of using cougars in Texas to repopulate the Florida panther population. Some say they are distinct enough that they shouldn't be hybridized while others say they are the same so one can successfully repopulate the other. According to the Federal Register, "the best available information continues to support the assignment of the eastern taxon to Puma concolor couguar as distinct from other North American subspecies" based primarily on biology and life history.
The proposal to remove the eastern cougar from the endangered species list does not affect the status of the endangered Florida panther subspecies, a cluster of conservation genetics issues to discuss in more detail at another time. But, although the extinct animals will no longer be protected under the Endangered Species Act, which is intended to save animals and plants that still have a recorded population, it will also no longer be able to be used to protect similar animals, such as the Florida panther. Not sure if that matters since the Florida panther is already protected (and possibly diluted with Texas cougar) but its interesting nonetheless.
Some interesting news on the African lion front.... On October 27, 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed listing the lion as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act – a similar listing to the current International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listing of “vulnerable”. The curious thing is that, for the most part, both sides, the activists and the hunting community, are considering this to be a win. The activists get some regulation but the hunters don’t get so much that they're banned. It will be interesting to see how it will all play out in the long run.
Prior to this decision the lion wasn’t listed under the USFWS Endangered Species Act at all; meaning, there were no US government mandated regulations for the species. Interestingly enough, however, USFWS recognizes African lion sub-species, a designation debated by many scientists and policy makers (especially since the discovery that the distinguishable fluffy mane of the Cape lion, thought to be an extinct sub-species, is simply a morphological result of colder weather, i.e. any lion can become a fluffy Cape lion if it’s chilly). Over the years, scientists have given 23 different scientific names to the African lion. Currently the IUCN Red List recognizes only the African and Asiatic sub-species while the Catalog of Life recognizes eleven sub-species (listed below) and USFWS recognizes four. According to the USFWS website, the new “threatened” designation only applies to Panthera leo ssp. leo. Panthera leo persica, the Asiatic lion, has been “endangered” since 1970 but Panthera leo ssp. melanochaita and Panthera leo ssp senegalensis remain “not listed”. Panthera leo ssp. leo is considered to be all lions on the African continent by IUCN but is considered to be the extinct North African Barbary lion in other circles. In the case of USFWS, it could be that Panthera leo ssp. leo is simply a new distinction which will encompass all African lions, as it does for IUCN, and they just haven’t removed Panthera leo ssp. melanochaita and Panthera leo ssp senegalensis from their list yet. Either way, some kind of agreement across organizations needs to happen if we think any kind of international/interorganization regulation is going to happen.
I am a biologist and my life is crap!