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Nature & Environment

Gorillas are starting to develop webbed feet

By T.K. Randall
December 30, 2018 · Comment icon 6 comments

Some gorilla populations are in danger of being wiped out. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.6 Kabir
An ever-shrinking gene pool due to population decline has been producing some unexpected mutations.
The critically endangered eastern lowland (or Grauer's) gorilla in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has experienced such a heavy decline in numbers over the years that inbreeding has become a very real concern, resulting in genetic problems ranging from fertility issues to webbed feet.

In a recent study, researchers compared the DNA of wild Grauer's gorillas with that of museum specimens and discovered a sharp and worrying decline in genetic diversity over the last few years.

"This recent increase in harmful mutations really emphasizes the need to reverse the ongoing population decline in Grauer's gorillas," said study co-author Professor Love Dalen.
Interestingly, a similar study of the closely related mountain gorilla found no such issue - possibly due to the fact that mountain gorilla populations have been relatively low for a long time whereas Grauer's gorillas have suffered declining numbers only recently.

Conservation efforts have also seen a slight increase in mountain gorilla populations.

It is believed that this stability has helped them to gradually weed out any harmful mutations.

"Our study highlights that historical museum specimens constitute a unique resource for monitoring recent changes in the genetic status of endangered species," said Professor Katerina Guschanski.

Source: Independent | Comments (6)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by bigjim36 6 years ago
They do have webbed feet there though 
Comment icon #2 Posted by Jenn8779 6 years ago
Very sad about this... I love gorillas. To me they are one of the most precious species we still have 
Comment icon #3 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 6 years ago
There are less than 4000 eastern lowland gorillas left. Unfortunately, due to their location, they probably wont be around for too much longer unless poaching and civil wars suddenly cease in the region. And now with worrying levels of inbreeding leading to fertility problems... 
Comment icon #4 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
Are webbed  feet a mutation or de-evolution?  If evolution, maybe the Gorillas are getting ready for Waterworld when all the ice caps melt.  Nature does take care of its own.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Imaginarynumber1 6 years ago
In this case it is a result of a lack of genetic diversity in the remaining population of eastern lowland gorillas.
Comment icon #6 Posted by hehuntsbeaver 6 years ago
First they're living in mountains, now they have sister wives? Soon they'll be brewing some fine corn liquor.


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