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Conservation Science

Florida Panther

SEZARC is saving species like the Florida panther through strong partnerships.

In 1995, eight female pumas from Texas (Puma concolor stanleyana) were introduced into five areas in South Florida to remediate morphological and biomedical correlates of inbreeding depression that threatened the long-term survival of Florida panthers (P. c. coryi). Initial analysis of the results of this genetic introgression initiative were published in 2010 and have highlighted its success, including growth of the population, increased genetic diversity, and reduced frequencies of physical traits associated with inbreeding, including cryptorchidism. SEZARC has been working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Big Cypress National Preserve over the last two decades generating data collected from 65 panthers in the post-genetic introgression era (1998-2020) to show the benefits accrued to male panther reproductive parameters via this management initiative, assessing the effect of genetic variables and comparing results to historic data.  Panthers today have increased testicular volume, and higher numbers of structurally normal spermatozoa and total sperm in comparison to historical panthers.  In fact, the addition of the Texas genes continues to demonstrate that genetic introgression has had a positive impact on the population >25 years later.  However, the Florida panther population remains small, isolated, and vulnerable because natural gene flow is not currently plausible. Continued monitoring is necessary to assess when additional genetic introgression initiatives will need to be implemented in the future. SEZARC remains committed to the conservation of this iconic species and hopes to continue assisting Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Park Service in studying this species for many years to come.

SEZARC examines male panther testicular volume and semen characteristics to determine if inbreeding depression is affecting the population.
Thanks to genetic introgression, Florida panthers now have increased testicular volume, and higher numbers of structurally normal spermatozoa and total sperm in comparison to historical panthers.