The Cheetah Is Depauperate in Genetic Variation

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Science  29 Jul 1983:
Vol. 221, Issue 4609, pp. 459-462
DOI: 10.1126/science.221.4609.459


A sample of 55 South African cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus) from two geographically isolated populations in South Africa were found to be genetically monomorphic at each of 47 allozyme (allelic isozyme) loci. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of 155 abundant soluble proteins from cheetah fibroblasts also revealed a low frequency of polymorphism (average heterozygosity, 0.013). Both estimates are dramatically lower than levels of variation reported in other cats and mammals in general. The extreme monomorphism may be a consequence of a demographic contraction of the cheetah (a population bottleneck) in association with a reduced rate of increase in the recent natural history of this endangered species.