Ch. 2: Tracking Chimeras in the Fakahatchee Strand Teacher Sheet

Ch. 2: Tracking Chimeras in the Fakahatchee Strand Teacher Sheet


The "Tracking Chimeras in the Fakahatchee Strand" chapter explores the conservation story of the Florida Panther and the genetic efforts to save these endangered animals. This chapter explores the idea of using genetic rescue to increase the genetic fitness of a population. This teacher sheet provides background information and answers to the questions on the student sheet.

There are many key terms introduced in this chapter that students may not be familiar with. If there are any terms missing on this sheet that you think the students should know, please add them. Use the resources provided to familiarize yourself with this chapter and the concepts presented. The takeaway points of this chapter include:

  • The conservation effort with the panthers was successful but their population is still threatened by limited space, habitat fragmentation, and low genetic fitness.
  • To increase the genetic fitness of the population, panthers from Texas were introduced into the Florida population to help bring new alleles into the gene pool.
  • Chimera or hybrid are synonymous terms used to describe a new organism formed from the mating of two different species that can mate and produce viable offspring. Thus gene flow occurs. This can occur both naturally and anthropogenically (human-caused).

Key Terms

  • Genetic augmentation – adding other genetic material
  • Chimera – another name for a hybrid
  • Gene flow – transfer of genes between populations due to mating
  • Genetic rescue – translocation of another population to an area to offset inbreeding and increase genetic diversity 
  • Anthropogenic – originating from human activity
  • Hybridization – different species mate to produce a hybrid of the two
  • Outbreeding depression – genetic phenomenon where the offspring of two different populations produce offspring with lower fitness
  • Gene pool – all the genes represented in a population
  • Habitat fragmentation – habitats become smaller isolated patches


1. In your own words, explain the dilemma in this chapter.
The Florida panther population is declining due to habitat fragmentation and loss. Another cause is low genetic fitness in which closely-related panthers are breeding. Conservation efforts included bringing a population of Texas panthers to Florida to help increase the genetic fitness, but this would then lead to the reproduction of hybrids, which is two species that come together to produce viable offspring. The dilemma becomes whether or not we should save the Florida panther by encouraging this hybrid species even though their habitat is declining.

2. What was the most interesting thing you discovered in this chapter?
Answers will vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.

3. What was confusing?
Answers will vary. Encourage your students to explain their answers.

4. Captive populations of panthers had lower fitness levels. What does this mean? Fitness is a measure of what?
Fitness is measured by reproductive success. If there is lower genetic fitness, then it's unlikely the population will have successful reproduction or produce healthy, viable offspring.

5. What do they mean by gene flow between two different panther populations?
Gene flow refers to the interbreeding between two different populations: the Florida and Texas panthers. The interbreeding will exchange more genes or the flow of genes between these populations to help increase genetic diversity.

6. What is the difference between natural and anthropogenic hybridization?
Natural hybridization can occur if different species come in contact with each other. There can be these hybrid zones in which different populations happen to meet and reproduce. Anthropogenic hybridization is the example here in which people introduce different species to each other that would not normally come in contact.

7. What are some outcomes of habitat fragmentation of panther populations?
If their habitat is fragmented, then they have to cross roads and this can lead to being hit by cars. It prevents different members of a population coming into contact with one another.

8. Research any additional information out there on the Florida panthers that was not mentioned in this book. How is the panther population doing today?
Answers will vary for this.

This teacher sheet is a part of the Resurrection Science lesson.

Did you find this resource helpful?