Scientists have assessed the genetic diversity of saigas in the Northwestern Caspian region

Scientists have assessed the genetic diversity of saigas in the Northwestern Caspian region

Source: http://nature
The official Wild Nature of Russia portal reported on a study conducted by a group of employees of the Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Scientists assessed the genetic diversity of saigas from the Black Lands Reserve and the Steppe Reserve. To do this, they conducted a study of DNA fragments of these animals.

"Scientists came up with the idea of such a study due to a decrease in the population by more than 40 times, which occurred from the late 1990s to 2016 due to a complex of factors, including anthropogenic ones," the report says.

In addition, due to poaching at that time, there was a critical decrease in the proportion of adult males, which disrupted the sex and age structure.

Scientists used samples that were collected at the end of the twentieth century. They were compared with samples from 2016, collected at a time when the number was critically low and amounted to about 3,500 individuals. The objects of the study were about 95 samples of biological material.

As a result, the experts' fears were partially confirmed. They noted that the studied samples retained a high level of diversity of maternal lines and the gene responsible for immunity. However, the studied sections of nuclear DNA showed reduced diversity.

"The research results, on the one hand, indicate a wide adaptive capacity of the saiga population of the Northwestern Caspian Sea, and on the other hand, a violation of the sex and age structure in this species and the loss of paternal lines, since it is males who become the main object of poachers' hunting," the message says.

Scientists note that since 2016 there has been a trend towards an increase in the number of saigas. Now there are about 28 thousand individuals who remain under the supervision of specialists. 

To date, the most important task for the conservation of the population of these animals is to reduce anthropogenic influence, including the prevention of poaching and habitat transformation.
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