New Study On Their Evolution Aims To Better Conserve 20,000 Lions Remaining In Wild

Lions have arguably been the most majestic creatures in the wild. Not much, however, is known about their history and population differentiation. 

A new study on the topic has now revealed much information about the same, while also proving to be an aid towards their conservation efforts.

lion Unsplash

Today, lions are classified as a vulnerable species, just a step above the dreaded “endangered” title. Living in parts of Africa and India, only 20,000 African lions remain in the wild today. This was not always the scenario.

An international team of researchers conducted an extensive genetic analysis on lions. In doing so, the team established long-term divisions among the prevalent lion populations. In addition, the research also shed light on the genetic diversity among modern lions. The findings are now published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For the research, the team analysed the genomes of 20 specimens of lions. These included the cave lion as well as 12 other historic species that lived between the 15th and 20th centuries. Following this, the team observed six specimens from modern African and Asiatic lions for the same.

Lion (Representative Image: Reuters)

A major difference in the study from its earlier counterparts was that the team observed the whole genome of the species of lions. Earlier studies usually focused on the analysis of mitochondrial DNA. The team had to acquire some of these genomes from 30,00-year-old lion fossils.

Conserving lions in the wild

A major finding was that of a common ancestor for several of the species that have lived over time. In addition, the researchers concluded that two unique lineages of modern lion emerged around 70,000 years ago. While one inhabited the northern parts of Africa, the other was dominant in the south. The research also suggested that the cave lions lived in cold climates.

The research also hints that the Asiatic lions living in the Gir forest in India evolved from the northern range lions in Africa. Their genetic diversity was also found to be low due to their small population.

lion napping on road Representation image

“Our results contribute toward the understanding of the evolutionary history of lions and complement conservation efforts to protect the diversity of this vulnerable species,” the study concluded.

It plans to do so by monitoring the genetic diversity of the lions and helping negate inbreeding depression and genetic erosion resulting from lack of such diversity. The study also mentions that such lak genetic diversity might lead the lions susceptible to future pathogen outbreaks. The data, thus, can be used to take actions on these lines, like boosting their genetic diversity through outbreeding with other lions.



source https://www.indiatimes.com/technology/science-and-future/new-study-on-their-evolution-aims-to-better-conserve-20000-lions-remaining-in-wild-512870.html

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