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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Daily Drift

Well, doggies ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 193 countries around the world daily.
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Today is Love Note Day  

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Today in History

48 BC On landing in Egypt, Pompey is murdered on the orders of Ptolemy.
855 The Emperor Lothar dies in Gaul, and his kingdom is divided between his three sons.
1066 William, Duke of Normandy, soon to be known as William the Conqueror invades England.
1106 King Henry of England defeats his brother Robert at the Battle of Tinchebrai and reunites England and Normandy.
1238 James of Aragon retakes Valencia, Spain, from the Arabs.
1607 Samuel de Champlain and his colonists return to France from Port Royal Nova Scotia.
1794 The Anglo-Russian-Austrian Alliance of St. Petersburg, which is directed against France, is signed.
1864 Union General William Rosecrans blames his defeat at Chickamauga on two of his subordinate generals. They are later exonerated by a court of inquiry.
1874 Colonel Ronald Mackenzie raids a war camp of Comanche and Kiowa at the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, slaughtering 2,000 of their horses.
1904 A woman is placed under arrest for smoking a cigarette on New York's Fifth Avenue.
1912 W.C. Handy's "Memphis Blues" is published.
1913 Race riots in Harriston, Mississippi, kill 10 people.
1924 Three U.S. Army aircraft arrive in Seattle, Washington after completing a 22-day round-the-world flight.
1928 Sir Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin when he notices a bacteria-killing mold growing in his laboratory; it remained for Howard Florey and Ernst Chain to isolate the active ingredient, allowing the "miracle drug" to be developed in the 1940s.
1939 Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union agree on a division of Poland; Warsaw surrenders to German troops.
1958 France ratifies a new constitution.
1959 Explorer VI, the U.S. satellite, takes the first video pictures of earth.
1961 Military coup in Damacus ends the Egypt-Syria union known as the United Arab Republic that was formed Feb. 1, 1958.
1963 Roy Lichtenstein's pop art work Whaam!, depicting in comic-book style a US jet shooting down an enemy fighter, is exhibited for the first time; it will become one of the best known examples of pop art.
1995 Israel's Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat sign an interim agreement concerning settlement on the Gaza Strip.
1996 Afghanistan's former president (1986-92) Mohammad Najibullah tortured and murdered by the Taliban.
2008 SpaceX launches the first private spacecraft, Falcon 1.

Non Sequitur


Should You Take Your Lottery Winnings in a Lump Sum or Annual Payments?

Playing the lottery, at least on a national scale, is often called "a tax on people who are bad at math." The odds of winning the top prize in the Powerball lottery are a constant 1 in 175 million. The number of people who buy lottery tickets does not affect the odds of winning, but it does affect the odds that more than one winner will have to split the jackpot.

That said, there can be benefits from buying a ticket even when you don't win, up to a point. If you buy a raffle ticket that will benefit a charity, you've made a donation. If you get as much pleasure out of hoping to win on your $2 ticket as you would have gotten out of the $2 candy bar you otherwise would have bought, then it's worth the $2. But if you buy more tickets, the net worth goes down as it cuts into the family's grocery budget. And if you will be sorely disappointed when you don't win, the value of the initial pleasure is wiped out.

But what happens when you win the jackpot? Business Insider take a look at the option you have of taking the winnings in a lump sum vs. an annual payout plan. They crunch the numbers as far as taxes and investments go. Taxes are going to take a lot of the money either way, but when the jackpot is $400 million, does that really matter? The real difference is in whether you invest your winnings. A decent investment plan will make a lump sum pay off big over time.
What the article does not cover are real-life headaches for a lottery winner. Here are your estimated payouts, which will vary depending on your state taxes:
You can take the cash up front. This is a $223.6 million check. After paying federal taxes on it, we calculated that you'd have $135.1 million left. Not bad.

You could also take the annuity, which pays $400 million over 30 years with an increasing annuity — $7.1 M the first year, $7.4M the next, increasing up to $22.2M in the 30th year — and pay the top rate every year for the next thirty. That makes the $400 million jackpot worth, assuming the tax rates don't change from here to 2043, $242.9 million after federal taxes.
Now factor in all your relatives, who know you've won a $400 million lottery. If you don't make each and every one of them a millionaire, they will be very disappointed. And you can't do that on $7 million. You have more relatives than you realize. You can set up large trusts for your children, but what about your grandchildren, nephews, siblings, and cousins? None of them will understand why you have to draw a line somewhere. You can hand out $10,000 at a time, but there will be at least one of your grandchildren and quite a few cousins who will spend it within weeks and come back for more. For years. Until they hate you, and vice versa. Of course, not all of your relatives are like that, but you don't know until you are confronted with vast wealth.

Here's another scenario: Say you have four children, and you want to treat them all equally. You set them each up with, say, a $10 million trust that pays out when they are adults. Maybe even as an annuity. Then those children grow up. Child one uses the money to buy a house (or two or three), set money aside for retirement, put their kids through college, invest for their heirs, and doesn't brag about how much money they have. Child two gives the entire amount to their church, and lives a marginal existence while working a low-wage job. Child three never works, becomes a drug addict, and refuses to have anything to do with the rest of the family. Child four enjoys the money, becomes a real ass, abuses his household servants, and invests in third-world sweatshops. Are you now regretting your promise to treat them all the same and give them money you no longer control?  
Those of a certain age will also need to factor in how long you expect to live to enjoy that money.

Oh sure, it's fun to dream. The question "What would you buy if you won $400 million?" is kind of silly, because you could buy whatever strikes your fancy. A more thoughtful question is "What would you do if you won $100,000?" That takes some real decision-making skills, because it's a large but limited amount that will not allow you to quit your job forever. The idea forces you to choose the most important things to do with your money. I once had some great ideas for this $100K, but now it would be a simple case of paying off my debts and using what little is left over to help pay my kids' college tuition. My life would not change much at all, except I'd have less stress.

What would you do with $100,000? What would you do with $400 million: would you take the lump sum or the annuity? How would you handle distributing that money? The question is moot for today; the $400 million winner has emerged, and the Powerball jackpot sits at $60 million. Which isn't bad, either.   

Did you know ...

About the gang rape epidemic in India

About the 10 members of congress who voted against food stamps that receive farm subsidies

That the charter school gravy train runs express to fat city

twitter v. facebook: a tale of two sites

Bill Clinton Shatters the repugican Attempts to Blame Obama For a Government Shutdown

Former President Bill Clinton is pushing back, and pushing back hard against the Republican attempts to blame President Obama an the Democrats for a government shutdown.

CLINTON: If I were the president, I wouldn’t negotiate over these draconian cuts that are going to take food off the table of low-income working people, while they leave all the agricultural subsidies in for high-income farmers and everything else. I just think it’s — it’s chilling to me. The entitlement spending is going down as the unemployment rate drops and the economy grows. Half of the deficit has already disappeared. The rest of it, well this is just, it seems almost spiteful.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But doesn’t it all come undone if there is a default? I mean all this saying you’re not going to negotiate, you’re betting on the other side caving.
CLINTON: That’s right. This is the House repugicans and the tea party people saying we don’t want to negotiate with the Democrats. We want to dictate over the Senate, over the House Democrats, over the Speaker of the House of our own party, and over the president. We insist on dictating the course of the country.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re saying that you just have to stand up to that, no matter what the consequences?
CLINTON: I think you do, because they haven’t asked for negotiations.
Former President Clinton made two points that the media is overlooking. The repugicans aren’t negotiating. They issued a series of public demands. Public ultimatums and demands are not the characteristics of a serious negotiation. The second point is critical. While repugicans have been complaining in the media that the president won’t negotiate with them, they haven’t asked for any negotiations. In fact, they aren’t speaking to the White House at all.
The idea that Obama is to blame for something that the constitutional responsibility of the House repugicans would be laughable if it didn’t demonstrate an ignorance in both the media and the public that the repugicans are happily exploiting. The reality is that Democrats have to stand up to the tea party extremists in the House and Senate. One compromise will only lead to more demands. The crisis aren’t going to stop.
It is a failed premise to assume that the group steering the House repugican caucus is composed of reasonable people who will sit down and fairly negotiate solutions to our problems. Instead of flexibility and reason, the Democrats are being opposed by inflexible ideologues. They aren’t going to stop. House repugicans don’t want to negotiate. They are trying to conqueror.
This is why all Democrats must stand united, and say no. Appeasement will only embolden. The House repugicans will only back down when they are defeated. Toughness and resolve always triumphs over extremism. Obama is doing the right thing, and Democrats need to show their support.

Know the difference!

The repugicans Want All Americans to Be Greedy Shills

Paul Ryan.The repugican cabal officially does not give a rat's ass about you or me.
Recently we shared how on the night that the president was first inaugurated, a group of senior repugican senators and congressmen including Paul Ryan and Jim DeMint got together at the Caucus Room restaurant and pledged to do everything they could to obstruct and destroy his presidency.
Congressman Pete Sessions later told the National Journal that their strategy was derived from the Taliban. He said that they learned from the Taliban how to "disrupt" a party or person's patterns, and, if they didn't get what they wanted from the president, would become a "Taliban insurgency."
Now comes a list, which will almost certainly not show up on repugican cabal TV, a.k.a. Faux so-called News, or on repugican cabal radio, a.k.a. wingnut hate speach radio, that shows clearly and says loudly the real priorities of the repugican cabal.
And those priorities have nothing to do with you or me, except in as how they want to let giant transnational corporations and billionaires steal more of our money and destroy more of our nation's commons.
The repugicans have issued their demand list in exchange for their hostage taking of the nation's debt ceiling.
The list is pretty simple and quite illustrative.
In order to raise the debt ceiling so that the United States government can pay off bills from the shrub's wars, bills already run up and committed to by the repugican cabal, they are demanding that President Obama do the following:
First, repugicans say the president must approve the Keystone pipeline right now. This of course is a pipeline on to buy a foreign corporation – TransCanada – which will transport foreign Canadian oil from a foreign country – Canada – to refineries owned in part by the Koch brothers along the Gulf Coast where it will be converted into diesel fuel and gasoline for export to China, Mexico, Brazil, and England. TransCanada itself has said that this pipeline will raise the cost of gasoline in the United States, because instead of refining it in the Midwest for domestic uses they are doing now, they will be able to refine it at the Gulf seaports where they can load it on giant tankers and ship it to other countries. So for the first repugican priority, billionaires get richer, oil companies get richer, foreign countries get Canadian oil, and Americans who drive get screwed – and get to keep the pollution and its attendant cancers from the refining process.
Second, repugicans say the president should postpone giving health care to 50 million uninsured Americans for at least a year. They also want him to cut $120 billion out of the Medicaid program, which is health care for poor people, mostly poor children, the disabled, and the poor elderly. Nobody can quite explain why they are so adamant about this. If Obamacare is going to be a big failure, you'd think they would want it to go into effect right away so the president could have egg on his face. So...could it be that they are afraid people will like it as much as people like Medicare and Social Security – two other programs that they fought tooth and nail and still hate – and thus it will be even harder to get rid of the future?
Third, repugicans demand that the president must abolish the Consumer Protection Bureau. They do not want you or me to be protected from predatory big banks, and they want to make it easier for banksters to get away with multibillion-dollar crimes and multimillion-dollar paydays. It's frankly astounding that they can even say this with a straight face.
Fourth, before they'll pay the bills for the shrub's wars, repugicans demand that the president make the big oil industry and its billionaire owners like the Koch brothers even more profitable, by cutting back on clean air standards and EPA regulations that save millions of lives and reduce Climate Change. They also want the president to give more of your and my federal lands to the giant oil companies and their billionaire owners. What do we get out of this? Nothing. What do the Koch brothers, who fund the tea party repugicans in Congress, get out of it? Billions.
If the president doesn't do all these things, repugicans say, they will refuse to raise the nation's debt ceiling so that we can pay for the bills brought up the shrub.
It's frankly astounding how the repugican cabal has officially given up even the pretense of caring about average Americans. They are now proudly the cabal of the billionaires and the transnational corporations.
The interesting question now is how much work repugican radio and TV will have to do to cover this up, and how long it will be before repugican-voting working-class Americans figure out what the hell is really going on here.

Secret Cold War documents show NSA spied on senators

President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with members of his civil rights cabinet on 18 January including, from left to right, Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer. King and Young were both future targets of the NSA watch list system. (Photo from Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, On-line Photo Archive, W425-21).
New, historic NSA weirdness, as reported by Matthew M. Aid and William Burr at Foreign Policy:
As Vietnam War protests grew, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) tapped the overseas communications of prominent American critics of the war -- including a pair of sitting U.S. senators. That's according to a recently declassified NSA history, which called the effort "disreputable if not outright illegal."
The identities of the NSA's surveillance targets were kept secret for decades, but an Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel decision in response to an appeal by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, has resulted in the declassification of these NSA records for the first time. Read more at the National Security Archives (not to be confused with the National Security Administration, also known as the NSA).

Daily Comic Relief


Scientists Invent Lightsaber, Claim Dubious Blog Headlines

Physicists Mikhail Lukin (Harvard) and Vladan Vuletic (MIT) claim to have invented a new form of matter: photons that act as though they have mass. I have no idea if it's true. But I am certain that Prof. Lukin knows exactly how to get media attention:
"Photonic molecules," however, behave less like traditional lasers and more like something you might find in science fiction – the light saber.
"Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other," Lukin said. "What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules. This type of photonic bound state has been discussed theoretically for quite a while, but until now it hadn't been observed.
"It's not an in-apt analogy to compare this to light sabers," Lukin added. "When these photons interact with each other, they're pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what's happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies."

AIG chief lamely apologizes for comparing outrage over bonuses to lynchings of Black people

The head of insurer American International Group (AIG) offered a half-assed apology for his "poor choice of words" today after outrage spread over his comments likening criticism of banker bonuses with the racist torture and murder of African-Americans in the South. Outrage over bonuses paid to bankers "was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that -- sort of like what we did in the Deep South . And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong," he previously said.

New Prime Minister of Australia Can't Move into His Official Residence Because It's Infested with Possums

The Lodge, the official residence of the Prime Minister in Canberra, is overrun with possums. They're causing embarrassment. The Daily Telegraph reports:
Former prime minister Julia Gillard once recalled an embarrassing dinner with a visiting foreign leader in 2012 which was interrupted by possum urine dribbling from the roof towards a valuable painting.
"We had a celebrated incident where we had a visiting foreign leader," she told the Sunday Telegraph.
"There was much shooing of people out of the dining room because someone spotted wee making its way down the wall to one of the very precious paintings from the National Gallery."
The Lodge is currently undergoing restoration. In the meantime, the newly-elected Tony Abbott is living in a nearby flat with police recruits. He says that he doesn't mind.



Police officer handcuffed teenage girls and made them walk through manure in their socks

A police officer who forced two 15-year-old girls to walk shoeless through manure after being handcuffed and driven to a farmyard has avoided jail after ­quitting the force. Robert Ovenstone, 32, took teenagers from a care home to a nearby farm after a callout over ­disruptive behavior. There, he forced the girls to walk in darkness down a manure-covered farm track in their socks.

Ovenstone and his co-accused, 31-year-old Stuart Kelman, admitted behaving in a threatening manner during the incident in Invergordon, Easter Ross, in July 2011. Kevin McCallum, defending Ovenstone, told Tain Sheriff Court that Ovenstone had quit his job, adding: “He has already paid a heavy price for a bad decision with good intentions.
“The intention was to teach the young people a lesson and encourage them to mend their ways.” Sheriff Jamie Gilchrist QC dismissed the claim that Ovenstone was carrying out “old-fashioned policing”. The sheriff told ­Ovenstone that he should never have become a policeman in the first place. He said: “You hark back to some apparent golden age where it is claimed matters were dealt with by a clip round the ear.

“You abused the position of power you were in and I take a very serious view of what you did.” Ovenstone also admitted a charge of threatening a young boy at the same care home on the same night. Sentencing him to 240 hours of community service, the sheriff added: “There is little to gain by sending you to prison.” Kelman, who had told Ovenstone “That’s enough” when the girls were ordered to walk down the farm track, was fined £1500. He is still suspended by the police.

Woman who entered half-marathon won full marathon by mistake

Meredith Fitzmaurice never dreamed she’d win Sunday’s Run for Heroes Marathon in Amherstburg, Ontario, Canada. Especially since the Belle River runner planned to run the half marathon and not the full 26.2-mile race. But a wrong turn sent her onto the marathon course. “I just run with my watch, so I was watching my time since I planned to do my half in under 1:28,” she said. “I was doing the race as training for my first full marathon in Detroit. But I’m looking at the time and wondering where the finish line is.” Fitzmaurice, 34, asked one of the bike officials on the course where the turn was for the half marathon, although she admits by that point she pretty much figured out what she had done.

“Once I realized what I had done, I figured well I’ll just run 20 miles and use it as a long run and call it a day,” she said. But as she headed back from the turn-around in River Canard she started to count people ahead of her. She realized there were only nine men ahead, and no women. She asked the official on the bike if she finished the marathon, even though she was signed up for the half, if it would count as a finish and, more importantly, would she be able to use her time as a Boston Marathon qualifier. “The official said he was going to ask the race director and he’d be back,” she said. “So as I’m running I’m wondering if my race is going to count, I’m thinking about my friend who is at the finish line probably wondering where I am since I have the keys to the car. And my neighbor, who was going to be waiting for me at the finish line. I knew they were going to be worried about me. “
The bike official finally came back and said the race director, Chris Uszynski, would honor her race as a completion in the full distance. “While I was waiting for a response I wasn’t sure what to do,” she said. “I felt really good but I was scared because I hadn’t planned to run 26.2 miles that day and was worried if it didn’t count that I would burn myself out for Detroit.” So Fitzmaurice decided to continue on. She asked the official on the bike if he’d keep her company. As Fitzmaurice got near the finish line at the arena on Meloche Road the feeling was “surreal.” People were high-fiving her and telling her she was the first woman and to keep going. “I had only ever run 20 miles, but I think at that point the adrenalin just pulled me through,” she said. “I just kept thinking you can do this, just get it done. The last couple miles were really tough.”

When Fitzmaurice crossed the finish line in a time of 3:11:48 she was the first woman, 10th overall and had qualified for Boston. “I thought I was only running a half marathon so I really gave it out there,” she said. “If I knew I was going to be running the full marathon I probably wouldn’t have ran so fast. So maybe it was a good thing.” And, as for making the wrong turn, Fitzmaurice said when she got to the corner it was pretty quiet and there weren’t a lot of runners around her. She blames the mistake on the fact she had her headphones on and was definitely in a zone. “I just missed it,” she said. “I didn’t do it on purpose. When I crossed the finish line I saw my friend and I started to cry and then I hugged the guy on the bike. Without him I wouldn’t have been able to do it. This was my first one and even though my family was disappointed they weren’t there to see it, maybe this was meant to be. I was alone and maybe this was how I was meant to do it.”

There's an audio interview with Ms Fitzmaurice here.

Seven Things You Didn't Know About Redheads

There are a bunch of myths out there about redheads. Are they really going extinct? Are they more likely than others to develop cancer? Trace has all those answers and more.

Abandoned Treehouse Mansion

The former owner of this treehouse had to be the most popular kid in town! It appears to be built better than a lot of family homes. We don't know exactly where this abandoned, Victorian-style treehouse is, but urbex photographer Drew Perlmutter took pictures from several vantage points to share with us, including the interior. It's a shame that it's no longer maintained for a child's use. The Spanish moss gives it an otherworldly feeling. See more pictures at HuffPo Home: Here

Random Celebrity Photos

Bettie Page

Plant produces both tomatoes and potatoes

A plant which produces both potatoes and tomatoes has been launched in the UK. The TomTato can grow more than 500 sweet cherry tomatoes while producing white potatoes. Horticultural mail order company Thompson & Morgan, which is selling the plants for £14.99 each, said the hybrid plants were individually hand-crafted and not a product of genetic engineering.
Grafted potato-tomato plants have already been produced in the UK, but Thompson & Morgan says this is the first time they have been successfully produced commercially. The company says the tomatoes are far sweeter than those available in supermarkets. Paul Hansord, horticultural director at the company, said he first had the idea for the plant 15 years ago when he visited a garden where someone had planted a potato under a tomato as a joke.
He said: "The TomTato has been trialled for several years and the end result is far superior than anything I could have hoped for, trusses full of tomatoes which have a flavor that makes shop tomatoes inedible, as well as, a good hearty crop of potatoes for late in the season.

"It has been very difficult to achieve the TomTato because the tomato stem and the potato stem have to be the same thickness for the graft to work, it is a very highly skilled operation. We have seen similar products, however on closer inspection the potato is planted in a pot with a tomato planted in the same pot - our plant is one plant and produces no potato foliage." The plants can be grown either outside or inside, as long as they are in a large pot or bag.

The Flaming Rocks of Chimera, Turkey

Near Çıralı, Turkey, on that nation's southwestern coast, you can find fires burning near the shore. They've burned for thousands of years, fueled by underground sources of methane and hydrogen. Kaushik of Amusing Planet writes about the impact they left on ancient observers:
For hundreds of years, sailors could see the flames from sea and used them as a landmark to navigate, but today they are more often used by hikers to brew tea. These flames, according to some ancient literature, gave birth to the myth of the Chimera, a fire breathing mythical beast with the body and head of a lion, with the head of a goat arising from its back, and a tail that ended in a snake's head.
You can find more photos here.

Scientists find a martian igneous rock that is surprisingly Earth-like

Awesome Pictures

A Jaw-Dropping Discovery (Literally)

Meet entelognathus primordialis -- the first-known animal to ever have a FACE!

Entelognathus primordialis means "primordial complete jaw." The fish is the oldest known animal to have face-forming jaw and cheek bones comparable to those of today's bony fishes and most terrestrial animals, including humans.

Why fish evolved cheek and jaw bones is still a mystery, but scientists believe it may have helped in feeding and catching prey away from the sea floor.

Archaeologists found the 419-million-year-old fish at Xiaoxiang Reservoir in Quijing, Yunnann, China.

The Bear who Fought in World War II

Wojtek was a Persian bear cub who was adopted by a unit of Polish soldiers training under the British Army in the Middle East during World War II. The 22nd Transport Company, Artillery Division, raised him the best they could to be a good soldier. Wojtek fit in quite well, as his favorite activities included wrestling and drinking beer. When the unit was deployed to Europe, the only way they could take Wojtek with them was to make him an official soldier. 
In Naples, it was British Courier Archibald Brown’s job to help process Polish soldiers that had just arrived from Egypt to advance with British soldiers against German and Italian forces. But when he called Wojtek’s name, no one answered.

“We looked at the roster, and there was only one person, Corporal Wojtek, who had not appeared,” Brown said in an interview years later. So he asked the other soldiers why Wojtek didn’t come forward. An amused soldier replied: “Well, he only understands Polish and Persian.” To his great surprise, Brown was led to a cage holding a full-grown bear.

Wojtek soon proved he was more than just a mascot when, during the series of assaults known as the  Battle of Monte Cassino, he put his strength to good use after being trained to carry heavy crates filled with mortar shells from the supply trucks, delivering them to the men operating the large guns on the front line.
The army honored Wojtek's service by putting his image, carrying ammo, on the unit's official badge. Read Wojtek' s story at Today I Found Ou.

Tiger, lion and leopard genomes compared

An international team led by South Korea’s Personal Genomics Institute and BGI unraveled the first whole genome of a 9-year-old male Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), and compared it with the genomes of other big cats including the white Bengal tiger, lions, and snow leopards. The genomic data from this study provides an invaluable resource for the future studies of big cats and their whole family’s conservation. The latest study was published online in Nature Communications.
Tiger, lion and leopard genomes compared
Despite big cats’ reputation for ferocity, these majestic species face more danger than they pose: All are endangered, mainly due to habitat loss, poaching, and dwindling food supplies. As the largest felid species on earth, tiger has become one of the world’s most endangered species. Understanding of tiger’s genetic diversity and demography has been very limited without the whole-genome sequence of tiger, or any of the Panthera species.

In this study, researchers sequenced the whole genome of an Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian tiger, and assembled it using BGI self-developed software SOAPdenovo. The Amur tiger genome was predicted to contain 20,226 protein-coding genes and 2,935 non-coding RNAs, and was enriched in olfactory receptor sensitivity, amino-acid transport, and metabolic-related genes, among others. Additionally, researchers found that the Amur tiger genome showed more than 95 percent similarity to the genome of domestic cat.

Researchers also sequenced the genomes of other Panthera-a white Bengal tiger, an African lion, a white African lion, and a snow leopard-using next-gen sequencing technology, and aligned them using the genome sequences of tiger and domestic cat. They discovered a number of Panthera lineage-specific and felid-specific amino acid changes that may affect the metabolism pathways. These signals of amino-acid metabolism have been associated with an obligatory carnivorous diet.

Furthermore, the team revealed the evidence that the genes related to muscle strength as well as energy metabolism and sensory nerves, including olfactory receptor activity and visual perception, appeared to be undergoing rapid evolution in the tiger.

Previous studies showed that the human loci EGLN1 (Egl nine homologue 1) and EPAS1 (endothelial PAS domain-containing protein 1) are two key factors for mediating high-altitude adaptation. In this study, the team found that the snow leopard had unique amino-acid changes in both genes that may have contributed to snow leopard's acquisition of an alpine, high altitude ecological niche.

In addition, researchers found that white lions contain a variant in the TYR gene. Variants in TYR were previously reported to be related with white coat color in domestic cats as well as with a form of albinism in people. The white lion variant appeared to lead to an amino acid change that seems to affect the charge of the resulting protein.

When observing the species’ genetic diversity, researchers found the genetic diversity of tiger and lion were similar to that of human. Interestingly, the diversity of snow leopard genome was nearly half that of the other Panthera species and slightly lower than that of the Tasmanian devil.

The Amur tiger genome is the first reference genome sequenced from the Panthera lineage and the second from the Felidae species. The data from tigers, lions and snow leopards provides a rich and diverse genome resource that could be used in future studies of conservation and population genomics. Genetics underpins the local adaptation and potential inbreeding and/or outbreeding in wild and captive populations can be illuminated and thereby help ensure the future survival of these majestic species. 

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Dog Play by Nadine Harkness