Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

World's largest sheep is an international traveler

Date:
July 26, 2011
Source:
Wildlife Conservation Society
Summary:
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 researchers.

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.
Credit: Copyright Beth Wald 2005

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).

Related Articles


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, Vβnia 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal References:

  1. G. Luikart, S. J. Amish, J. Winnie, A. Beja-Pereira, R. Godinho, F. W. Allendorf, R. B. Harris. High connectivity among argali sheep from Afghanistan and adjacent countries: Inferences from neutral and candidate gene microsatellites. Conservation Genetics, 2011; 12 (4): 921 DOI: 10.1007/s10592-011-0195-z
  2. Richard B. Harris, John Winnie, Stephen J. Amish, Albano Beja-Pereira, Raquel Godinho, Vβnia Costa, Gordon Luikart. Argali Abundance in the Afghan Pamir Using Capture–Recapture Modeling From Fecal DNA. Journal of Wildlife Management, 2010; 74 (4): 668 DOI: 10.2193/2009-292

Cite This Page:

Wildlife Conservation Society. "World's largest sheep is an international traveler." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110722112102.htm>.
Wildlife Conservation Society. (2011, July 26). World's largest sheep is an international traveler. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110722112102.htm
Wildlife Conservation Society. "World's largest sheep is an international traveler." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110722112102.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) — Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) — Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) — Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) — A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins