Friday, 31 May 2013

The elusive gene of the tiger.

The joy about zoos, is going to see the animals which you have read about in books. I would say once you have been to 1 zoo, you have been to them all! However in some situations, there are specialised species like the white Bengal tiger which is a rare genetic variant of the normal orange Bengal tiger sub-species.

These tigers can be found in their natural environment, the wild but they are far more common in captivity, where they are inbred to maintain the distinctive white coat colour. As a consequence of inbreeding, many of these captive white tigers have genetic mutations, or trouble with sight and hearing due to the loss of pigmentation.

The Peking university has reported in the journal of Current Biology, the genetics of a family of tigers in the Chimelong Safari Park. This study included both white and orange tigers. The study pinpointed the pigment gene SLC45A2. This gene inhibits the production of the red and yellow pigment, but the gene for black pigmentation remains unaffected and the stripes are still produced.

This genetic discovery is hoped to lead to their reintroduction into the wild under a conservation programme. It would appear that white tigers are more vulnerable than their counterpart Bengal tigers, where they are targeted for trophy hunting. All the white tigers which were shot were mature adults and suggests that these tigers are able to survive without their fitness being compromised.

So maybe, there will be more white tigers roaming free through the wild soon.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Who said gold was at the end of the rainbow?

We have all heard that if you follow the rainbow and arrive at the end, there will be a pot of gold waiting for you. Obviously, this is not true (if that were the case, we'd all be millionaires!). However what awaits in the deep may be of value.

The UN International Seabed Authority (ISA) has published it's first plan on extracting small mineral-rich nodules from the sea bed. This "idea" has been thrown around for many a year, however with the recent  developments in technology and the rising prices for the gems and precious metals, it has become a more feasible plan.

I suppose in some ways this could be beneficial to a country and help to boost their economy, however the irreversible damage which will be carried out upon the sea bed, really needs to be considered. Much of our oceans have not yet been explored and so we may be potentially affecting an animal's habitat and more importantly we could be forcing an animal or coral reef into extinction purely on the greed of humans!

The ISA has stated that they will be issuing 17 licences for seabed extraction, with at least 7 more to follow. ISA claims that any profit made from the selling of the minerals will be donated to developing countries. Although the donation of profit is a good gesture, it could actually be making matters worse. The degradation of the seabed could affect the footfall of tourists who travel to countries and small islands to experience the exquisite marine life. So the saying 'all that glitters is not gold' is apparently true, our oceans may be full of priceless gems and metals but they are also home to some amazing creatures and beautiful plants.

Should the price of gemstones and metals outweigh the precious organisms of our seas?

It's been hectic

Hi Readers. Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I have been so busy what with exams that have been happening over the past month. But I am back and ready to explore some more! Are you?