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 user 2007-03-15 at 11:10:00 am Views: 55
  • #17430

    Island leopard deemed new species

    leopards found on Sumatra and Borneo represent a new species, research
    by genetic scientists and the conservation group WWF indicates.Until
    now it had been thought they belonged to the species that is found on
    mainland southeast Asia.Scientists now believe the two species diverged
    more than one million years ago, and have evolved separately
    since.Clouded leopards are the biggest predators on Borneo, and can
    grow as large as small panthers.The separation of the species was
    discovered by scientists at the US National Cancer Institute near
    Washington DC.”Genetic research results clearly indicate that the
    clouded leopards of Borneo should be considered a separate species,”
    said Dr Stephen O’Brien, head of the Institute’s Laboratory of Genomic
    Diversity.”DNA tests highlighted around 40 differences between the two

    Tell tails
    evidence came from examination of fur patterns. Leopards from Borneo
    and Sumatra have small “clouds” with many distinct spots within them,
    grey and dark fur, and twin stripes along their backs.Their mainland
    cousins have large cloud markings on their skin with fewer, often
    faint, spots within the cloud markings, and are lighter and more tawny
    in colour”The moment we started comparing the skins of the mainland
    clouded leopard and the leopard found on Borneo, it was clear we were
    comparing two different species,” said Dr Andrew Kitchener from the
    National Museums of Scotland.

    “It’s incredible that no-one has ever noticed these differences.”
    which maintains a large conservation operation on Borneo, estimates
    there are between 5,000 and 11,000 clouded leopards on the island, with
    a further 3,000 to 7,000 on Sumatra.”The fact that Borneo’s top
    predator is now considered a separate species further emphasises the
    importance of conserving the ‘Heart of Borneo’,” said WWF’s Stuart
    Chapman, co-ordinator of a project seeking to preserve the island’s
    wildlife.The three governments with territory on the island -
    Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei – signed an agreement earlier this year
    pledging to protect the “Heart of Borneo”, 200,000 square kilometres of
    rainforest in the middle of the island thought to be particularly high
    in biodiversity.