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Some gorillas have developed harmful mutations due to inbreeding as populations plummet, study warns

Only a few thousand of the gorillas remain in the wild after poaching and habitat destruction saw its population plummet by 80 per cent in recent decades.

DAILY MAIL: ‘The world’s biggest gorilla is developing webbed feet as a result of inbreeding among its dwindling population, according to a new study. A Grauer’s gorilla’s chances of being born with harmful mutations that cause fused digits have soared in the last 100 years. Loss of genetic diversity in the critically endangered ape species, which grow to 6.1ft tall and weigh 460 pounds, has also seen losses of male fertility and disease resistance.

The findings were made by comparing genes taken from the primate, which is native to forests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from 100 years ago to present day. Only a few thousand of the gorillas remain in the wild after poaching and habitat destruction saw its population plummet by 80 per cent in recent decades. The mutations increase the risk that the magnificent beast is wiped out completely due to disease…

‘The results from the comparison of historical and modern genomes show that this decline has led to increased inbreeding and a loss of genetic variation… ‘In addition, the researchers identified mutations leading to loss of function in genes associated with finger and toe development, which likely explains why present-day gorillas sometimes have fused digits.’

Lead author Tom van der Valk, a PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden, said: ‘We found that the genetic diversity in Grauer’s gorilla has declined significantly in just a few generations… His international team of researchers made the findings after comparing 11 genome sequences from present-day gorillas and collections stored in museums over the last century’. SOURCE…

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