Tigers in south to survive longer than those in other parts of the country

Higher genome variation found in tigers of South India, says study

Tigers in south to survive longer than those in other parts of the country

Bengaluru: South India not only houses the largest tiger population in India, but it also has a distinct genetic cluster.

A study titled 'Conservation priorities for endangered Indian tigers through a genomic lens' shows that the genome of tigers in south India is different from that of those in the rest of India, besides being healthy.

This distinct genome is also an indication that the tigers in southern India will survive longer compared to those in other parts of India, said Uma Ramakrishnan, principal investigator at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and co-author of the study.

This is the first ever genome study of wild tigers in India. The study was conducted by researchers from NCBS, Wildlife Institute of India, tiger laboratories from across India and forest departments of Karnataka, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. The department of biotechnology of the Government of India has also supported the study, which started in 2014. The report was published in August 2017.

Inbreeding

"We found that the tigers of south India shared a closer genetic ancestry than those in central India. The genome of Ranthambore tigers is similar to each other, but not similar to that of tigers from anywhere else. This shows that there could be inbreeding, which is not a healthy sign. But in case of south India, the population is healthy as the genome has high levels of variation. This explains that there is less co-relation, which means the possibility of tigers getting extinct in south India is less. Despite climate changes, they can survive longer and stronger," Uma said.

A total of 54 samples were collected from 21 locations, of which only 38 were finally analysed. The tissue samples of wild tigers were analysed for the study. In Karnataka, the samples were collected from Bandipur, Nagarahole and Bhadra tiger reserves and in Tamil Nadu, from Satyamanagalam. Researchers said teams of forensic experts were working on another global genome global study which can help solve wildlife crime cases and curb international rackets.

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