Home to 70% of the world’s tigers, India has a huge part of the species’ total genetic variation

Source: The post is based on the article “Home to 70% of the world’s tigers, India has a huge part of the species’ total genetic variation” published in The Times of India on 13th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Environment, Science & Technology

Relevance: benefits of molecular genome research in conserving endangered species

News: Every organism on earth has genetic material which is passed on from generation to generation. The article explains how molecular genome research can help in conserving endangered species.

How does molecular genome research help with conserving species?

Endangered species live in specific habitats. These habitats are often taken up by the people and infrastructure.

This fragmentation of habitat causes endangered species to undergo population crash, thereby decreasing in the population and leading them into isolation.

Hence, genome research can provide information about the loss in genetic variation and the impacts of loss of habitat on genetic variation.

Further, genetic variation is extremely important to study the small populations of endangered species. This is because small populations can undergo chance events where certain genetic variants increase or decrease.

For instance, a study conducted on the population of tigers in Odisha found how by chance, in a very small population, the frequency of a black mutation and the corresponding phenotype has grown more common.

Another problem with the small population of endangered species is that inbreeding amongst them causes disadvantageous mutations or inbreeding depression which further lower survival rates.

Studying these can help conservation strategies of endangered species.

What are some of the findings on tiger genomes in India?

India is home to 70% of the world’s tigers. Hence, a large proportion of the total genetic variation of the species is found in India.

Studies have found isolated populations of tigers in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve have chances of inbreeding twice compared to other regions.

This is because tiger habitat around highways and densely populated areas are harmful to the species connectivity.

Moreover, there are efforts going on to figure out tigers’ predatory nature which often leads to animal-human conflicts and historical samples are being used to study the lost genetic variation. These studies would help in tiger conservation.

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