Tiger DNA expert Uma Ramakrishnan gets special permission to wander India’s protected forests on foot, following the same trails the big cats tread. While she enjoys coming across tigers and their cubs and watching them with binoculars, those sightings aren’t the treasure she’s after. What she loves most is to find tiger droppings — “almost like gold to me,” says the molecular ecologist at the National Centre for Biological Sciences in Bangalore.
Category Archives: Wildlife DNA
Wildlife crime is often overlooked and under-prosecuted but involves huge, organised criminal networks. Modern investigative techniques, at the cutting edge of solving human crimes, are now helping to catch the poachers, smugglers and traffickers who are destroying our natural world.
When Lonesome George died at the age of 102 he was considered the rarest animal on Earth. He was the last known member of his species, the Chelonoidis abingdonii — a giant tortoise native to Pinta Island, a remote fraction of the Galápagos Islands. When his caretaker of 40 years found him dead in 2012, George had died of natural causes. So what about George allowed him to live significantly longer than the average American?
Scientists explored the secrets of George’s longevity in a study published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Genetic analysis of George’s DNA, along with the DNA taken from other giant tortoises, revealed that his genetic code contained variants linked to DNA repair, cancer suppression, and a powerful immune response.
Yves Hoareau, a research scientist at the University of Washington, Seattle, removes a set of keys firmly clamped to his belt and unlocks the door to the walk-in refrigerator. Illuminated beneath bright fluorescent lights, the cold, cramped space inside more closely resembles a mail room than a meat locker: cardboard boxes, some of which are adorned with “Kenya Airways Cargo” stickers and “Kenya Customs” packing tape, are stacked on many of the wire shelves. Overflowing within the boxes are small plastic containers, of the sort that are used to collect urine, each of which holds a single precious sample: ivory.