Genetic Analysis Reveals Three Subspecies of Snow Leopard

The Jaguar

Snow Leopard by Luxstorm. CC0 1.0 Public Domain.

A new study has been released in the Journal of Heredity. Using samples of snow leopard scat (poop) from across the cat’s range, a team of 26 scientists performed genetic analysis to better understand the species’ population structure. They determined that there are three distinct subspecies of snow leopards (Panthera uncia).

The possibility of the existence of multiple subspecies of snow leopards has been discussed since 1962. But these were based on morphological (appearance)-based traits, and they had not been confirmed genetically (Jackson et al., 2014; Hunter, 2015). The reason for this is that snow leopards are some of the most difficult cats to study. They live in harsh landscapes, are famously elusive, and occupy terrain that is difficult for humans to get around in. Furthermore, the origins of captive snow leopards and museum…

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