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Maguari

Cheetah at Whipsnade 08/05/10

Does anyone know for sure which Cheetahs are on-show at the moment? When I last visited the South Africans ([i]A. j. jubatus[/i]) were in the front exhibits and the North Africans ([i]A. j. soemmeringi[/i]) in the off-show areas. This time all the Cheetahs in the on-show exhibits looked very pale in colour (more like the [i]soemmeringi[/i]) so we were wondering if they'd switched.

Cheetah at Whipsnade 08/05/10
Maguari, 9 May 2010
    • Maguari
      Does anyone know for sure which Cheetahs are on-show at the moment?

      When I last visited the South Africans (A. j. jubatus) were in the front exhibits and the North Africans (A. j. soemmeringi) in the off-show areas. This time all the Cheetahs in the on-show exhibits looked very pale in colour (more like the soemmeringi) so we were wondering if they\'d switched.
    • Pertinax
      Good Shot, Maguari. Now I know why this exhibit is called 'Cheetah Rock'. ;)
    • karenZOO
      I was going to ask how many cheetahs do they have? We saw 3 in the enclosures and spotted 3 off show.
    • Maguari
      Interestingly, ISIS now just lists Whipsnade as having 3.3 A. j. soemmeringi and no A. j. jubatus at all, so looks like it might be an all-North African display now, like Chester.

      And if this is the case, then karenZOO must have seen every last Cheetah they have!
    • karenZOO
      Lol we were surprised to see any of the off show cheetahs, I was just pointing out to my partner that there must be a lot more cheetahs and we noticed 2 in one enclosure and one in another only because they were standing on their dens :D
    • Arizona Docent
      Very soon this will likely not matter. According to a private conversation I had with Laurie Marker (founder of Cheetah Conservation Fund and the world's leading authority on cheetahs IMO), there are NO subspecies of cheetahs and within 2-3 years genetic studies will prove this. (Just as it was recently proved there are no subspecies of jaguar).
    • jbnbsn99
      Does this refer to the Asian Cheetahs as well?
    • Maguari
      I'm increasingly of the opinion that no species will have any 'official' subspecies within about 30 years or so. Any situation where there is real difference will have led to the splitting-off of new, monotypic, species and any where there's not will have been lumped.

      Subspecies have never had a particularly strong scientific footing and were always one of the more 'artificial' groupings, more there to help humans mark down subtle differences than to necessarily tell us much about the inter-relation of different populations.

      It would not in the least surprise me to find that Acinonyx jubatus was monotypic - it (as a species) famously has one of the smallest overall genetic diversity levels of any mammal (which is theorised to be due to a major population bottleneck in the species' past).



      That said...

      Where there is doubt I would always err on the side of caution and keep putative subspecies separate (both for captive breeding and study purposes). If we interbred all the soemmeringi and jubatus (and venaticus and hecki...) Cheetahs and then later discovered there's some important gene or locus that marks them apart, it'll only lead to trouble - not least because outbreeding could cause us to lose that locus through random recombination. This is (perhaps paradoxically) even more important in species with otherwise low genetic diversity such as the Cheetah - to give the species the best chance of surviving, we need to preserve every last iota of variation.




      EDIT: I just wanted to add that, while I'm sure your source knows their Cheetahs as well as anyone, drawing taxomonic conclusions (or indeed, any scientific conclusions) on the basis of one person's opinion can be a risky game. If two or three other studies say no subspecies as well then it will start to become accepted. And, for a bit of bonus Philosophy of Science, it's worth remembering that in science you can never prove a hypothesis - only disprove (in certain cases) or support it. In your Jaguar example, all it takes is one long-lost population of Jaguars to be discovered that are strongly divergent and the 'proof' goes out the window!


      You can tell it's getting late here, I'm starting to remember stuff from Uni! :D
    • Arizona Docent
      Yes, it includes the so-called asian cheetah; they are all one. The bonus to this is that cheetahs sourced from Africa can be placed in Asia in areas where they are extirpated. This is not mere speculation on my part. According to Dr. Marker, plans are being made right now to reintroduce (African stock) cheetahs into India and Russia.
    • jbnbsn99
      If it is the case that the Cheetah is monotypic then this is the best thing that could ever happen to the "Asian" Cheetah.
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