Saturday, March 17, 2007

Island leopard deemed new species

Clouded leopards found on Sumatra and Borneo represent a new species, research by genetic scientists and the conservation group WWF indicates. Until now it had been thought they belonged to the species that is found on mainland southeast Asia. Scientists now believe the two species diverged more than one million years ago, and have evolved separately since. With bodies up to 1.1m long, clouded leopards are the biggest predators on Borneo and one of Asia's largest cats. The separation of the species was discovered by scientists at the US National Cancer Institute near Washington DC. "Genetic research results clearly indicate that the clouded leopards of Borneo should be considered a separate species," said Dr Stephen O'Brien, head of the Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity.

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