Effects of Genetic Depletion On Estimating Risk of Extinction of the Endangered Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi)

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Cole, Anna Marie
Florida panther, habitat fragmentation, inbreeding, urbanization, extinction
thesis / dissertation description
There are over 30 species of wild cat that occupy over 90 countries of the world. Many of these species are experiencing significant population loss due to urbanization and habitat fragmentation. These forces lead to common occurrences of inbreeding and subsequent biodiversity loss. One subspecies of felid experiencing such inbreeding is the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi). A subspecies of puma, the Florida panther historically resided in a large expanse of the southeast United States. Due to development and urbanization, this habitat has been reduced to two areas in southwest Florida: the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades National Park. Due to the habitats being separated, the two remaining populations of Florida panthers are isolated and unable to interact with each other, thus limiting the amount of available genes. Physical and reproductive characteristics, such as cryptorchidism, have resulted from inbreeding. To prevent further population loss, and to increase biodiversity, 8 Texas cougars were introduced into the populations of Florida panthers in 1995. A population model was created in order to analyze the effects of genetic depletion if such conservation efforts were not implemented.