RIP 36m – Genomics godfather to all pumas!

Remember 36m?  This is the guy whose home range included the UCSC campus and went all the way up north close to Big Basin!

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One day he even decided to make a kill within view of the front steps of my office building.  Not sure who was stalking who :-).

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36m also had a penchant for crossing Western ave and coming into town.  If you were a raccoon trying to hide in one of those canyons – watch out, cuz 36m had your number.

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But mostly 36m hung out outside of town in the coastal bluffs and redwoods that look out over the pacific ocean – some of the most beautiful country in the world.  That’s where he really made his living, killing deer and keeping tabs on his better halves – 29f,10f and 25f and their kittens (watch him courting 10f here).   They were his pride – only ever meeting to mate – but 36m kept them safe by keeping any intruding males away.

Last week we discovered 36m’s collar was on mortality mode.  When we went in to investigate we found that he had died about 3 weeks previously.  Unfortunately his body was too decayed to tell definitively how he died, but we were able to rule out a vehicle strike, gunshot or another puma.  Its most likely that he died of poison but we can’t be sure.  Right before dying he had eaten a raccoon in the same place that he had previously eaten a coyote and cat. The problem with eating these smaller predators is that they can be full of rodenticides from the small rodents they eat that have been poisoned.

While 36m was a bad ass puma by any measure, he might one day come to be the most recognized puma anywhere.  That’s because we just recently (well really it was Ed Green and Beth Shapiro) completed a de novo contig assembly of his genome.  In short time, this will be the puma genome against which other puma genomes can be compared and used to test all sorts of evolutionary and ecological questions about pumas.

We first got to know 36m as a young puma appearing clandestinely in trail cameras set up within 3m‘s territory (3m was the first male puma in our study with a territory almost identical to what became 36m’s).  3m was a big bruiser and we couldn’t imagine anything happening to him, but soon after 36m arrived, 3m was no longer, and all of a sudden the cubs in that territory started getting killed by a puma (most notably 2f’s cubs). After that brief period of mayhem, 36m established his territory and all has been calm for puma on the north coast for the past few years.  But within days of 36m dying last month, 29f’s kitten was killed by a puma in Wilder State Park.  The next few months are likely to be tough ones for pumas on the north coast, until a new male is firmly established in this territory.  So it goes with puma…

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