Mountain lions, also called pumas, face the danger of going extinct, as a new study reveals. The beautiful big cats in Santa Monica Mountains, California, are isolated from relatives. Researchers claim that in fifty years time, they might go extinct.
Recent research in the field revealed the sad reality of mountain lions in Santa Monica. The pumas live in Southern California mountains, isolated from other of their kind. Fifteen specimens have been identified. They are isolated because of the highway and other human activities, and, as a result, no other cats can enter their area.
Mountain lions need to be in contact with others of their kind to assure genetic diversity. The lack of this phenomenon leads to their certain extinction. The specialists provide us with an upcoming deadline, which is fifty years from now.
A team of researchers, ecologist John Benson among them, rely their findings on information gathered for thirteen years in National Park Service. The team found out that over the past 25 years, the mountain lion population in Santa Monica has increased. But this is how far good news goes. Although their number seems stable now, the predictions of their future don’t indicate the same.
The researchers are worried because, among the fifteen big cats in their mountains, only two of them are males. They assure the continuation of the species. If one of them dies, the entire population is at risk. There are up to 25% chances that such an unfortunate outcome could happen in the future. This is why they suggest that genetic diversity can help the mountain lions in Santa Monica.
The animals are also exposed to inbreeding (the process of mating of close members of the same family). The phenomenon can also affect the health of the pumas, and, on a long term, their chances of survival in the Santa Monica Mountains. The specialists inform us that the phenomenon is called inbreeding depression. This new element raises the risk of extinction to nearly 100% (99.7%).
The researchers acknowledge the fact that the living conditions are good for the Santa Monica mountain lions: they have plenty of food (they hunt local deer), and they don’t interfere with humans’ activities. On the other hand, the area is small, and they don’t have the chance of leaving it and find other partners.
The new study documenting on the Santa Monica mountain lions was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Seth Riley is one of the authors of the study.
Image courtesy of: Flickr