View Full Version : Lion tailed Macaques-Two genetically different populations

Roopak Gangadharan
02-12-2015, 03:04 PM
The palakkad gap in the western ghats has in the past thrown up many questions related to the genetic variations in avian species north and south of the gap resulting in changes in classification and nomenclature... here is one on mammals.



The lion-tailed macaques ( Macaca silenus ) which are found only in forests from the central to the southernmost tip of the Western Ghats are not a single entity. A recent scientific study has shown that the 4,000 monkeys that survive now comprise two genetically different populations.

The most prominent break in the Western Ghats is the Palghat gap, which is about 40 km wide. South of the gap, the macaque habitats are highly fragmented, compared to the habitats in the contiguous forests in the north. The study shows that the lion-tailed macaques living north of the Palghat gap are genetically different from those living in the south.

The study says that although the lion-tailed macaque has a relatively wide range south of the gap, its area of occupancy is small and severely fragmented. Small populations in isolation, especially in fragmented landscapes, are known to lose genetic variability, suffer from inbreeding depression, and become genetically differentiated among themselves.

The finding is that those in the south have low mitochondrial DNA diversity compared to those in the north. “These populations can be considered as separate conservation units and should be treated separately in captive breeding programmes. Any reintroductions to the wild should be done after ascertaining the correct geographic origin of the individual.”

The study recommends that some of these isolated fragments be connected by planting food trees that would establish canopy corridors between them to facilitate gene flow.

The study, ‘Prehistoric and recent vicariance events shape genetic structure and diversity in endangered lion-tailed macaque in the Western Ghats: Implications for conservation,’ published in Plos One , a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal, on November 11, was conducted by Muthuvarmadam S. Ram, Minal Marne, Ajay Gaur, Honnavalli N. Kumara, Mewa Singh, Ajith Kumar, and Govindhaswamy Umapathy.

It was jointly funded by the Department of Biotechnology under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology and the Central Zoo Authority of India.

The study was carried out in the forests of Aghanashini, Karkala, Kundapur, and Kudremukh in Karnataka, Muthanga, Vazhikkadavu, Silent Valley, Nelliampathy, Kodanad, Vazhachal, Kollam, and Amboori in Kerala, and Anamalai, Meghamalai, and Kalakkad in Tamil Nadu.

Sabyasachi Patra
03-12-2015, 12:12 PM
Good that finally a study to evaluate the genetic diversity has been done across various sub-populations. It is interesting to know that the researchers have estimated that the lion-tailed macaques have separated into two distinct populations some 2.11 million years ago across the palghat gap. If the plantations are forced to mandatorily maintain a contiguous forest area around their periphery which is contiguous with other plantations then the movement of lion-tailed macaques and other animals would be easy. The original study can be downloaded from here (http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0142597&representation=PDF).

The situation in the Annamalai hills can be seen in the documentary that I had done a couple of years ago www.youtube.com/watch?v=arac6fnLQtE