Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

World's Largest Sheep an International Traveler

26.07.2011
Wildlife Conservation Society recommends international monitoring, protection needed for Marco Polo sheep

A genetic study of the world’s largest sheep species has revealed that the big-horned animals travel extensively across the moutainous borders of Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and China according to Wildlife Conservation Society researchers with the support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).


The Marco Polo sheep is named after the 13th Century explorer who described the animal in his travelogue. This huge sheep has the longest horns of its kind, with adult males having a spiraling span of up to six feet between the tips. Photo credit: Photo(s) Copyright Beth Wald 2005.

Using a non-invasive technique that extracts DNA from fecal samples, researchers in WCS’s Afghanistan Program found that Marco Polo sheep in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan are genetically connected to sheep in neighboring Tajikistan and China, in spite of the challenging terrain.

The study produced two recently published papers, appearing in recent editions of Conservation Genetics and Journal of Wildlife Management. The authors of the papers include: Richard.B. Harris of the University of Montana, and John Winnie, Jr.of Montana State University (both of whom did their work under the auspices of the Wildlife Conservation Society); Gordon Luikart, Stephen. J. Amish, and F.W. Allendorf of the University of Montana; and Albano Beja-Pereira, Vânia Costa, and Raquel Godinho of the Universidade do Porto (Portugal).

”Wide-ranging species such as Marco Polo sheep are difficult to monitor in the best of conditions, and our ability to follow them across their mountain habitats is limited,” said Richard B. Harris, a wildlife scientist from the University of Montana and the Wildlife Conservation Society. ”Non-invasive methods of determining population trends and relatedness are extremely valuable in understanding how to best protect these magnificent animals.”

Because Marco Polo (or argali) sheep are elusive animals that are difficult to track, the research team collected fecal samples from 172 individual sheep from five different areas in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and China as a means of answering questions about the genetic diversity and connectivity of animals in the region. Researchers searched for sheep on high vantage points, collecting fecal pellets after a group of animals was located. Genetic material was then extracted from the fecal matter and isolated for statistical analysis.

According to the study results, Marco Polo sheep populations in the Pamirs have a high degree of genetic diversity. Indications of genetic connectivity were detected between sheep populations in both Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Sheep in China, however, were found to be somewhat more isolated, highlighting a need for international collaboration in protecting corridors between the region’s countries.

”Genetic studies such as these are the only feasible option for answering important questions on how to best manage wide-ranging species that occur in remote locations such as the Marco Polo sheep,” said Peter Zahler, Deputy Director for WCS’s Asia Program. ”The study’s results underline the need for international cooperation between Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China, and even Pakistan to ensure that the world’s Marco Polo sheep populations can continue to move across these giant mountains as needed, irrespective of political boundaries.”

With the assistance of WCS and support from USAID (United States Agency for International Development), the government of Afghanistan has launched several initiatives to safeguard the country’s wild places and the wildlife they contain. In 2009, the government gazetted the country’s first national park, Band-e-Amir. The park was established with technical assistance from WCS’s Afghanistan Program. WCS also worked with Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) in producing the country’s first-ever list of protected species, an action that now bans the hunting of snow leopards, wolves, brown bears, and other species. In a related effort, WCS now works to limit illegal wildlife trade in the country through educational workshops for soldiers at Bagram Air Base and other military bases across Afghanistan. WCS also works with more than 55 local communities in Afghanistan to better manage their natural resources, helping them conserve wildlife while improving their livelihoods. WCS has helped train and deploy more than 50 community rangers to monitor wildlife such as Marco Polo sheep, and also patrol the region to stop poaching.

The Marco Polo sheep is actually a subspecies of argali and is named after the 13th Century explorer who described the animal in his travelogue. Argali are classified as Near Threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Marco Polo sheep are threatened by human-related activities such as poaching, habitat degradation and fragmentation.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit www.wcs.org.

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to: www.wcs.org/donation

Stephen Sautner | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.wcs.org
http://www.wcs.org/donation

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cells communicate in a dynamic code
19.02.2018 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Studying mitosis' structure to understand the inside of cancer cells
19.02.2018 | Biophysical Society

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

Im Focus: Hybrid optics bring color imaging using ultrathin metalenses into focus

For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.

But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...

Im Focus: Stem cell divisions in the adult brain seen for the first time

Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.

The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...

Im Focus: Interference as a new method for cooling quantum devices

Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters

Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Contacting the molecular world through graphene nanoribbons

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

When Proteins Shake Hands

19.02.2018 | Materials Sciences

Cells communicate in a dynamic code

19.02.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>