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Pangolin-Poaching Hot Spots Revealed by DNA Tests

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Pangolins, the only mammal with scales, are endangered by hunting.

Pangolins—also called scaly anteaters—are the only mammals with reptilelike scales, which grow from modified hair follicles. They are hunted for their scales.

Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

University of California, Los Angeles researchers developed a method for tracing the smuggling routes of pangolins, often poached for their scales, using DNA tests.

The researchers sequenced genomes from 111 tissue and blood samples from pangolins in nine countries.

After identifying around 4 million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), a computer program selected 96 SNPs that identified five major populations, allowing the researchers to pinpoint the origins of 87% of the samples to within an average of 100 km.

From Science
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