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New Study Adds to Calls for Formal Recognition of Himalayan Wolf

posted Apr 9, 2019, 8:34 PM by chloe owens

11/27/2018, by Rajat Ghai, Down To Earth

New study adds to calls for formal recognition of Himalayan wolf

A new study by a team of British and Nepalese researchers has confirmed that the Himalayan wolf, a proposed taxonomic classification of a population of Tibetan wolves in the Himalayas and Tibet, is indeed a genetically unique lineage or race of wolves, which must be conserved before it goes extinct. Titled “The unique genetic adaptation of the Himalayan wolf to high-altitudes and consequences for conservation”, the paper has been published in the October edition of the journal, Global Ecology and Conservation. The lead author is Geraldine Werhahn from the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK. The Himalayan wolf is a proposed classification of wolves found in a large area comprising of the Himalayas, the Transhimalaya (a 1,600-kilometre-long mountain range in China’s Tibetan Autonomous Region, extending in a west–east direction parallel to the main Himalayan range) and the Tibetan Plateau. As the paper notes, different names have been used to describe the wolves of this region in the Victorian Era and in the 20thcentury. These include Canis lupus lanigerin 1847, Canis lupus chancoin 1863, Canis lupus filchneri in 1907 and finally, Canis lupus himalayensis in 2003. But till date, a formal taxonomic classification is pending. It adds that “although the scientific evidence supporting its genetic uniqueness has been accumulating in recent years, reliable population estimates are lacking.”… Based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, the researchers found that the Himalayan wolves had indeed diverged from other canids much, much earlier and are thus, indeed one of the oldest races of canids and wolves in the world. But they found something else too. They found that these wolves had distinct genes which made them adapt to hypoxia, which is the deficiency of oxygen in a biotic environment. The wolves reportedly have “decreased blood flow resistance, which may help to improve haemorheologic fitness”, the paper noted. The researchers have proposed that this adaptation to high altitudes is why these wolves may have diverged in the first place and have persisted in remaining a distinct, unique, genetic lineage…“In evolutionary terms, this is the one of the most ancient wolf lineages on earth, if not the most ancient. It has to be preserved,” says Shrotriya. “As per reports, there are just 200-300 genetically pure Himalayan wolves in the world. If they are not conserved, the world will lose an important part of its ancient biodiversity,” says Aggarwal.