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It takes one to snow one

From the Himalayas to the southern Siberian mountain range, the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) can be found on the prowl for its next meal. Snow leopards are no strangers to harsh terrains, travelling anywhere from 48 to 80 square miles [1]. These powerful predators can jump up to 50ft and can take down prey three times its own size [2]!

Young snow leopard by Tambako The Jaguar, [CC BY-ND 2.0], via

To survive and blend in with snowy, mountainous environments, snow leopards have large paws that act as natural snowshoes and thick fur coats to protect them from harsh conditions. Their light-colored coats have dark rosette patterns that are unique to each individual [3]. Unfortunately, their beautiful coats are sought after by poachers. The IUCN lists the snow leopard as vulnerable, with their wild population in decline. Other threats to snow leopard populations include habitat loss and climate change.

Today, we share the chromosome-length assembly for the snow leopard, thanks to Kiara from the Oklahoma City Zoo. Before she passed in late 2017, she provided the sample for this genome assembly allowing for her genome to live on indefinitely. We thank the Oklahoma City Zoo staff and especially Candice Rennels and Jennifer D'Agostino for their help with this sample!

This is a $1K genome assembly with contig N50 = 65 Kb and scaffold N50 = 141 Mb. See Dudchenko et al., 2018 for procedure details. This is the fifth species in the DNA Zoo collection from the Pantherinae subfamily of cats, the others being the tiger, jaguar, leopard, and the clouded leopard. Stay tuned for more!

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