Using Genetic Information to Evaluate and Ultimately Take Action to Preserve the Himalayan Snowcock (Tetaogallus himalayensis)
The human race has had to face many harsh realities recently such as climate change and animal extinction due to our ignorance of the delicate systems working together to create our biosphere. Scientists are using recent genetic technology to gain a better understanding of our biosphere so we can nurture and take action to repair it. Researchers of Nanchang University in China investigated the relationship between the degree of genetic variation in the Himalayan Snowcock (Tetaogallus himalayensis) and the environment. The environment has differing effects of genetic diversity depending on the species, with little similarity between different bird species concerning these differences (Ruan et al, 2012).
The Snowcock (Tetaogallus himalayensis) is a sedentary ground bird which resides in the Himalayas. They prefer to escape the warmer weather in summer into the high mountains. During the winter, however, they inhabit the lower foothills of the mountains including fluvial rocky hills, alpine meadows, hilly pastures and barren shrubby grassland (Cheng 1978) where it is warmer. Ultimately they prefer cool weather and minimal physical activity (Ruan et al, 2012). http://www.kolkatabirds.com/himalayansnowcock8dm.jpg
For a population to survive, the genetic diversity needs be able to survive natural selection regarding changes in the environment. This diversity is quantitatively obvious to scientists through Single Nucleotide Morphism (SNPs) which occur in the in the DNA sequence in the form of varying nucleotide sequence lengths and sites as well as pairwise differences. Singularly or collectively these SNPs may results in an expressed difference known as a polymorph. This may include changes in colours, resistances, etc in a particular unit or offspring. These polymorphic sites are grouped by their effective change and are called haplotypes (Reece et al, 2012). Many haplotypes are desirable to increase the strength and resistance of a population to changes in the environment. This is considerably important since the environment is changing due to the human’s effects; so diversity in the genome of the Snowcock (Tetaogallus himalayensis) is essential to its survival.
Biologists tried to determine the best environment to encourage genetic diversity in the Snowcock (Tetaogallus himalayensis). Since the degree of how much variability relies on the environment varies among bird species (Raun et al, 2012) it can’t be prescribed and each species must be researched individually. Upon testing groups of the same species which resided in different areas of the same region, they soon discovered the degree of genetic diversity was strongly related to how many hours of sunlight habitat was exposed to. The more sunlight there was the number of unique haplotypes was less which means less variability in the population. In these places the population is at an increased risk of extinction. Their explanation referred to another study which suggested that sunshine duration and intensity could affect sex gland development. The researches recommended a shorter annual sunshine duration and more sunshine duration variation to improve genetic diversity.
Our understanding of the environment inclusive of its fauna is essential to the survival of humans and the health of our planet. Through carrying out this research scientists are adding to the pool of collective knowledge which can be understood and adapted by another for another application.
Reece, J., Meyers, N., Urry , L., Cain, M., Wasserman, S., Jackson, R., et al. (2012). Campbell Biology (9 ed.). Melbourne: Pearson.
Ruan, L., Luo, H., Zhang, L., & Wen, L. (2012). Ecological Genetics of Himalayan Snowcock (Tetaogallus himalayensis). Berlin: SpringerLink.