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Genetic ‘Mutational Meltdown’ push the wooly mammoth toward extinction: Research

A genetic “mutational meltdown” helped push the wooly mammoth toward extinction

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FILE - The woolly mammoth - in a display at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, Canada - went extinct during the last ice age, which ended 4,000 years ago. (Wikipedia commons)

USA, 4Mar, 2017: A genetic “mutational meltdown” helped push the wooly mammoth toward extinction, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, say they compared genetic material from mammoths when they were plentiful and material from when the population was in decline.

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What they found was “genome deterioration” that reflected the smaller population size. The findings are a warning to conservationists that keeping a small pool of endangered animals could result in inbreeding and genomic meltdown.

“There is a long history of theoretical work about how genomes might change in small populations. Here we got a rare chance to look at snapshots of genomes ‘before’ and ‘after’ a population decline in a single species,” said Rebekah Rogers, who led the work as a postdoctoral scholar at Berkeley and is now an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “The results we found were consistent with this theory that had been discussed for decades.”

According to researchers, woolly mammoths were once very common in North America, Siberia and Beringia, which is the land bridge that used to exist between current day Russia and the U.S. state of Alaska.

About 10,000 years ago, in the face of a warmer climate and increased hunting by humans, the populations of the beasts began to shrink. But the woolly mammoth existed until about 3,700 years ago when they finally went extinct.

Researchers say they compared genetic materials from a 45,000-year-old mammoth to one that lived 4,300 years ago. The latter was from a group of about 300 mammoths that lived on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean.

“We found an excess of what looked like bad mutations in the mammoth from Wrangel Island,” Rogers said.

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Using mathematical models, researchers say they found “multiple harmful mutations” in the sample from Wrangel Island. Some of the mutations caused the mammoths to lose olfactory receptors. This led to problems with mate choice, researchers said. Furthermore, one mutation likely caused the animal to develop an “unusual translucent satin coat.”

“With only two specimens to look at, these mathematical models were important to show that the differences between the two mammoths are too extreme to be explained by other factors,” Rogers said. (VOA)

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Celebration in Panama City for its 500th anniversary

Panama City celebrates it with an enormous cake for 4,500 people

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Panama City is a financial center and it is known as the Latin American Miami. Pixabay

Panama City, the first Spanish settlement on the Pacific coast of North America, celebrated its 500th anniversary with an enormous cake for 4,500 people reminiscent of the ruins of the city that Spaniard Pedro Arias Davila founded in 1519.

“The cake measures 3.63 meters (11.9 feet) long, 2.5 meters high and almost 2 meters wide. It’s made of vanilla (and) chocolate and filled with ‘dulce de leche’ (caramelized condensed milk),” pastry chef Eduardo Ruiz told Efe news on Thursday.

The cake, for which more than 2,200 kilograms (4,840 pounds) of flour was used and which about 100 people worked to prepare, is a 1:20 scale replica of the Historical District of Old Panama, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 and is one of the country’s most important tourist attractions.

The enormous pastry was to be unveiled amid the ruins of the archaeological site, but the intense rain on Thursday in the area forced organizers to move the event under an improvised arcade. Panamanian artist Anny Tovar was tasked with singing “Happy Birthday” to the city.

The festivities also included a parade in which about 100 musical bands participated with former world champion boxer Roberto Duran as the standard-bearer, along with actors outfitted as colonists and local Indians.

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A special day for Panama City as it celebrates its 500th anniversary. Pixabay

“It’s a very special day despite the rain. The water is much needed, it’s a blessing and the cake is remaining in really good shape,” Lourdes Cabrera, a 40-year-old Panamanian who attended the celebration with her whole family, told EFE.

The event’s agenda included artistic presentations in stations of the city’s metro, the only one in Central America.

Arias Davila founded the city on Aug 15, 1519, and it served as the departure point for numerous expeditions throughout the region and the collection point for the gold extracted in Peru, which was then transported by mule to the town of Portobelo, where it was loaded onto galleons for shipment to Spain.

The city was sacked and destroyed in 1671 by the famous English pirate Henry Morgan and the local authorities decided to rebuild at a spot 10 km to the southwest, erecting a city wall around a zone now known as the Old City, which each day welcomes hundreds of tourists.

Panama City celebrates 500th anniversary
Panama City is the first Spanish settlement on the Pacific coast of North America. Pixabay

Now, with its impressive skyline, Panama City is a financial center known as the “Latin American Miami,” and some 1.5 million people – almost 40 percent of Panama’s total population – live in the metro area, which features a busy international airport and the entrance to the Panama Canal, through which 6 percent of the world’s trade passes.

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Capital Mayor Judy Meana told the media that the city’s main challenge at present is “ending inequality” among the population and erasing the pockets of poverty that still exist there.

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo is scheduled on Thursday to hold a cabinet meeting to discuss tourism amid the ruins of Old Panama. (IANS)