Local Mountain Lions Show First Reproductive Effects of Inbreeding

“It’s quite severe,” says the lead researcher in UCLA study 

By Sam Catanzaro

UCLA scientists tracking two local mountain lion populations, one in the Santa Monica Mountains and another in the Santa Anas, have reported signs of inbreeding among these groups. 

According to the study, these two populations are cut off from other cougar populations by busy freeways, and therefore face limited breeding opportunities. 

The study reported the animals averaged a 93 percent abnormal sperm rate. In addition, while some of the mountain lions displayed physical signs of inbreeding, like deformed tails or testicular defects. 

“Researchers have long had genetic evidence of inbreeding, but the malformed sperm is the first evidence that inbreeding is manifesting in the reproductive system,” reads a press release announcing the results. 

The study’s lead author is Audra Huffmeyer, a UCLA postdoctoral researcher who studies fertility in large cat species and is a National Geographic Explorer. 

“This is a serious problem for an animal that’s already endangered locally,” Huffmeyer said. “It’s quite severe.”

Over the past year, researchers identified nine adult males from the Santa Monica and Santa Ana ranges displaying signs of inbreeding. The scientists took sperm samples from five cougars that had died from unrelated incidents, including rat poisoning and car collisions. They found that each had very high levels of abnormal sperm, together averaging an “exceedingly high” 93 percent abnormal sperm rate. One of the five also had testes of dramatically different sizes.

The researchers also found other signs of inbreeding among living cougars:  four had kinks in their tails, including one that also had only one descended testicle. 

The study called for the need for wildlife crossings, which would allow the mountain lions and other animals find a broader pool of potential mates. The California Department of Transportation has scheduled groundbreaking for early 2022 on one such crossing, a wildlife bridge over Highway 101 in Agoura Hills in northwestern Los Angeles County, thanks to a mix of public and private funding.

“Mountain lions, also known as cougars, are a bellwether species, making them a leading indicator that inbreeding could soon cause problems for other wildlife species in the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountains,” researchers said in announcing the study. “The study warned that there’s a real risk of extinction for the mountain lions in the Santa Monica and Santa Ana ranges. Although they haven’t seen evidence yet, once scientists start finding significant inbreeding depression — meaning decreased fertility and reduced kitten survival — extinction is predicted to occur within 50 years, with a median extinction time of 12 to 15 years.” 

Biologists and land managers hope this project will lead to more crossings. In fact, early plans are being formulated for a possible structure over Interstate 15 in in Riverside County. Crossings, the researchers say, help all local animal species amp up their genetic mix. 

For now, the researchers will continue monitoring how the newly discovered fertility issues affect the mountain lions’ breeding, keeping a close eye on potential decreases in the number of kitten litters and kitten survival rates.

“If we don’t do anything to add genetic diversity, the end is near,” Huffmeyer stressed. “That sounds dramatic, but that’s what we’ve seen.”

in News
Related Posts

Ulta Beauty Burglary Suspects Apprehended

April 15, 2024

April 15, 2024

Detectives Suspect These Individuals Are Part of a Larger Organized Retail Theft Ring Several suspects in a recent burglary at...

(Video) The LAPD Announces the Arrest of a Suspect in the Horrific Attacks on Two Women on April 6 in the Venice Canal Area

April 15, 2024

April 15, 2024

@palisadesnews The LAPD Announces the Arrest of a Suspect in the Horrific Attacks on Two Women on April 6 in...

Three-Bedroom Home on Bienveneda Ave Selling for $2.5M

April 14, 2024

April 14, 2024

Abundant Natural Light Fills the Interior Spaces This home, located at 864 Bienveneda Ave and selling for just under $2.5...

LAPD Announces Capture of Suspect in Venice Canal Attacks

April 14, 2024

April 14, 2024

Authorities Provide Updates on the Arrest at Press Conference By Dolores Quintana This morning, LAPD Commander Steven Lurie, West Bureau,...

Registration Now Open for Summer at New Roads

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

New Roads School is accepting registration for its summer program, a vibrant selection of classes and camps curated to meet...

CodeREV Inspires Kids to Code

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

Budding coders, robotics engineers, game developers, animators and STEM campers are invited to join CodeREV this summer for a memorable...

YMCA Santa Monica: When School Is Out, Camp Is In

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

As the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District nears its end,  YMCA Santa Monica is setting up for its popular Summer...

Council Advances Plans for 120+ Affordable Apartments

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

The Development Aims to Serve Individuals and Families Earning Between 30 to 80% of the Area Median Income The City...

Venice Shorts: Media Trucks Scour Canals After Saturday’s Violent Assaults

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

Just How Safe Is Venice? By Nick Antonicello Car vandalism, tool theft, break-ins, property theft, pick-pocketing at the beach, rampant...

Accents Owner Steven Hanna Reflects on Decades Long Legacy

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

For 37 years, Accents Jewelry has transcended mere commerce, evolving into a vibrant community, a crucible of creativity, and a...

Earth Day Celebration Coming to Village Green

April 12, 2024

April 12, 2024

Attendees Can Indulge in a Variety of Culinary Delights, Including Savory or Sweet Crêpes From la Crepe du Jardin, Shane’s...

Nationwide Retail Theft Scheme Leads to Five-Year Prison Sentence for Santa Monica Man

April 11, 2024

April 11, 2024

The Man Led a Group That Hoodwinked Department Stores Across 23 States By Zach Armstrong A Santa Monica man was...

Lyft Driver Charged with Sexual Assault Following Investigation

April 11, 2024

April 11, 2024

The Incident Occured in September By Zach Armstrong A Lyft driver who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman last year has...

“New Girl” Actor Sells Palisades Abode for $3.1M

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

He and His Wife Undertook a Renovation of the Unique, Two-Story Abode, Transforming It Into a Picturesque Beachfront Dwelling Actor...

Homeless Man Threatens Lifeguard With Rod, Shuts Down PCH Traffic While Perched on Cliff

April 10, 2024

April 10, 2024

The Incident Halted Traffic for Over an Hour By Zach Armstrong A homeless man was arrested by authorities on Monday after...