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New evidence for California Condors' genetic bottleneck


PhysOrg

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The existing genetic diversity of California Condors, all of which are descended from just 14 individuals, is strikingly low. But were condors more genetically diverse before their 20th century population crash, or were they already, as one paleontologist put it in the 1940s, a Pleistocene relict with "one wing in the grave"? The researchers behind a new study in The Condor: Ornithological Applications analyzed samples from condor museum specimens dating back to the 1820s and found that the historical population was surprisingly diverse, but that a substantial amount of that diversity was lost in the last two centuries. This finding supports the hypothesis that condors were fairly widespread and abundant prior to increases in human-caused mortality, which likely drove their numbers down quickly in the 1800s and early 1900s.

 

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