Himalayan Ibex

  • A recent study by scientists of the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has proved that Himalayan Ibex is a distinct species from the Siberian Ibex.
  • The paper, ‘Genetic evidence for allopatric speciation of the Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica) in India,’ has recently been published in Endangered Species Research, an international peer-reviewed journal.

About the Findings

  • The study reveals that Siberian ibex is a polytypic species, plausibly formed by lumping of at least 2 species and or 3 to 4 sub-species.
  • The researchers, under a project funded through the National Mission on Himalayan Studies undertook field surveys and collected faecal samples from Lahaul and Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.
  • The genetic analysis conducted with the inclusion of the sequences available from all across the distribution ranges in Central Asia, Tajikistan, Altai Mountains, Mongolia and Russia provided first evidence to claim that Himalayan Ibex is genetically different from all other ranges of Siberian Ibex.
  • The samples collected from India clustered with the sequences from Tajikistan in a phylogenetic analysis, which were adequately different from the other two clades: KZ clade of Tajikistan (which broadly represents one of the clusters in the phylogeny) and AMR clade of Altai Mountains, Mongolia and Russia.
  • Based on the findings, it was estimated that the Siberian Ibex diverged from Alpine Ibex during the Pleistocene epoch (2.4 million years ago).

Reasons for Diversion

  • The scientists are now working to understand how the mountain oscillations might have led to this allopatric speciation with the inclusion of sophisticated tools of genomics and GIS.
  • It was presumed that the ‘montane systems’, formed by a series of climatic oscillations and temporal topographic metamorphosis, have broken up the contiguous distribution of widespread species and accelerated allopatric speciation.

Allopatric Speciation

  • Allopatric speciation occurs when a species separates into two separate groups which are isolated from one another.
  • physical barrier, such as a mountain range or a waterway, makes it impossible for them to breed with one another.
  • Each species develops differently based on the demands of their unique habitat or the genetic characteristics of the group that are passed on to offspring.
  • It is speculated to be the most common way of species formation.
  • A famous example of allopatric speciation is that of Charles Darwin’s Galápagos Finches, another one involves the Asian Elephant.

 Polytypic Species

  • A species population which consists of two or more subspecies is known as a polytypic species.
  • It was first defined by Huxley (1940).
  • Examples are tiger, Panthera tigris which has several subspecies; such as—(i) Indian tiger, Panthera tigris tigris, (ii) the Chinese tiger, P. t. amoyensis, (iii) the Siberian tiger, P. t. altaica, (iv) the Javan tiger, P. t. sondaica, etc.

Significance of Study

  • The study is going to be the breakthrough in the global understanding of the Ibex distribution and evolution.
  • It will grab the attention of the global experts so that the species can be evaluated under IUCN.
  • The identification of Indian Tajikistan Ibex as a distinct species will prioritize the conservation of the species at global level.

Siberian Ibex (Capra sibirica)

  • It is a species of wild goat and is distributed in diverse habitats, ranging from cold deserts, rocky outcrops, steep terrain, high-land flats and mountain ridges to low mountains and foothills.
  • Most Siberian ibexes are seen in central and northern Asia, Afghanistan, western and northern China (Primarily Xinjiang), north-western India, south-eastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, eastern Uzbekistan, Mongolia, northern Pakistan, and south-central Russia.
  • IUCN Status: Least Concerned

Himalayan Ibex (Capra sibirica hemalayanus)

  • They are found in the western Himalaya in Pakistan and India, usually at elevations of 3800m and higher.
  • In India, the Ibex is distributed mainly in the trans-Himalayan ranges of the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh up to the river Sutlej.

Ecosystem Roles

  • Ibexes can be a significant prey item for many species.
  • Siberian ibexes host many different species of ectoparasites and endoparasites. The presence of ectoparasites on Siberian ibexes creates a symbiotic relation with magpies (Pica pica), and other birds These birds benefit from food that is supported on the body of Siberian ibex, while Siberian ibexes benefit from being groomed.
  • Throughout their distribution, ibexes browse and graze, impacting vegetation communities.