Two adorable mountain lion kittens were discovered in California’s Santa Monica Mountains. These tiny cubs, named P-46 and P-47, have been a much-needed sign of the species’ survival in the wild, but there’s a lot of confusion about who could have fathered these kittens.
The National Park Service recently discovered two new mountain lion kittens that mostly likely were born in November. Videos and photos of these adorable kittens have already gone viral on the internet. The National Park Service confirmed biologists discovered the two mountain lion kittens in the Santa Monica Mountains west of Los Angeles, reported ABC News. Despite the rather urbanized locality, it is a great sign to see mountain lions breeding, said Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area biologist Jeff Sikich,
“We continue to see successful reproduction, which indicates that the quality of the natural habitat is high for such a relatively urbanized area.”
Attesting to the fact that the Santa Monica Mountains in California have been a surprisingly fertile ground for mountain lions, Kate Kuykendall, a spokesperson for the National Park Service said the following.
“Despite being born in a pretty congested area, the Santa Monica Mountains are actually a high-quality habitat for wildlife. Many people are surprised that right outside of the second largest city in the country, we have enough open space to support a carnivore of this size. This is good news for the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains.”
According to park officials, this is the ninth litter of kittens marked by park service biologists at a Santa Monica Mountains den site, reported Los Angeles Times. The park service further added that the kittens were discovered in December, in a rather small den, in a remote area of the western end of the mountains. The den was quite hidden and difficult to access. Mountain lionesses prefer to give birth in such concealed and remote places to ensure the survival of the cubs. When the predators go off to hunt, their litter invariably is exposed to other smaller predators, which can kill or maim these furry little creatures.
The kittens were discovered because biologists from the National Park Service had been diligently tracking their mother, reported Savannah Now. Based on the GPS coordinates, biologists have kept track of her whereabouts ever since she was just a little kitten herself. The Park Service has been tagging, tracking, and studying mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002. Officials regularly upload photos of the lions it keeps an eye on, and any new cubs that are born there.
Despite the good news about the kittens being born in the mountains near California, there’s a concerning mystery about who might have fathered them. The cubs have been tagged and blood samples have been drawn in order to assess their health and determine their lineage through DNA testing.
Park officials suspect that the kittens may have been fathered by P-12, a notorious male mountain lion that has twice inbreeded with his daughter P-19 in the past. Officials are hoping that the cubs would be fathered by P-45, a newly discovered male. Regular inbreeding has become problematic for lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, reported Breitbart. Speaking about the problem, that leads to development of a lot of genetic disorders as these inbred kittens grow, Jeff Sikich, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said the following.
“We are hopeful that the kittens’ father is unrelated to P-19, as inbreeding has been a problem for lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, where the population is essentially trapped. Inbreeding leads to low genetic diversity, which can eventually lead to low reproduction. Our mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains… have the lowest genetic diversity ever recorded of any mountain lion population besides the Florida panther that went nearly extinct.”
Inbreeding among predators invariably leads to severely low genetic diversity, which in turn leads to homozygosity, a condition in which the offspring is affected by steadily deteriorating traits that affect their ability survive and reproduce, thereby hastening the demise of the species, unless genetic diversity is introduced.
According to Scientific American, there are only a dozen mountain lions left in the Santa Monica Mountains and any new kittens are critical for the survival of the species.
[Photo by National Park Service]