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Classroom Resources: Finding Genes That Fit

Finding Genes That Fit
By Joe Roman

Fall 2011 / Vol. 12 No. 3

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Discussion Questions

1. What are some of the biological and conservation consequences of inbreeding, as exemplified by the Florida Panther?
2. What are the biological and conservation trade-offs associated with “genetic rescue” as a conservation tool?
3. What does the author mean when he refers to “the new Florida panther”? In what sense is the Florida panther “new”? What are the implications of this?
4. Darrell Land is quoted as saying “A peregrine is a peregrine is a peregrine.” What does he mean by that? Do you agree with him?
5. The author describes different levels of difference among species associated with genetic rescue: between subspecies (such as the Florida and Texas panthers), different but closely related species, and species in entirely different kingdoms of life (such as bacteria and trees). Philosophically, does the amount of difference between the groups influence your opinion about the advisability of genetic rescue?
6. The author implies a relationship between genetic rescue and genetic engineering. What is that relationship? In what ways are they different? What are your attitudes about both of these strategies as they relate to conservation?

Websites for Further Information

Florida Panther Net
• Florida Panther information from the National Wildlife Federation
Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge
• Florida Panther Refuge information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Panthers and Genetic Rescue in the News

• Eastern cougar is declared extinct, with an asterisk (New York Times, March 2, 2011)
• Returning chestnut trees to city where blight was first found (New York Times, March 23, 2011)
Another cougar east of the Mississippi – but not in Alabama (Huntsville Times, July 31, 2011)

Peer-reviewed Literature

• Allendorf, F.W., R.F. Leary, P. Spruell, and J.K. Wenberg. 2001. The problem with hybrids: setting conservation guidelines. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 16: 613–622.
• Creel, S. 2006. Recovery of the Florida panther – genetic rescue, demographic rescue, or both? Response to Pimm et al. Animal Conservation doi:10.1111/j.1469-1795.2005.00018.x
• Hedrick, P., and R. Fredrickson. 2009. Genetic rescue guidelines with examples from Mexican wolves and Florida panthers. Conservation Genetics DOI: 10.1007/s10592-009-9999-5
• Pimm, S.L., L. Dollar, L. and O.L. Bass, Jr. 2006. The genetic rescue of the Florida panther. Animal Conservation. doi: 10.1111/ j.1469-1795.2005.00010.x
• Tallmon, D.A., G. Luikart, and R.S. Waples. 2004. The alluring simplicity and complex reality of genetic rescue. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 19: 489-496.

Key Concepts

• Florida panther
• Conservation genetics
• Inbreeding
• Endangered species
• Genetic rescue

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