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India vs. China in Red Pandas; DNA Finds Chinese and Himalayan Subspecies Exist Here | India News

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NEW DELHI: Contrary to the earlier belief that only one species of red panda is found in India, Indian scientists have established that India is home to both the Himalayan red panda (HRP) and the Chinese red panda (CRP).
In doing so, they have also responded to a Chinese study published in February 2020 that claimed that CRP is not present in India.
Indian scientists, in this groundbreaking study based on DNA from fecal samples collected over a three-year period, have said that there are two phylogenetic (subspecies) of HRP and CRP in the country.
The study was published in Nature (Scientific Reports) and in the German Society for Mammalian Biology last week.
Indian scientists have also contradicted China’s claims, saying that it is the Siang River in Arunachal Pradesh that is the potential or geographic boundary dividing the two subspecies after examining DNA samples from the Indian Himalayan region.

India vs. China in Red Pandas; DNA Finds Chinese and Himalayan Subspecies Exist Here | India News

A Himalayan red panda. Faecal samples of this species were found to be in Northwest Bengal and confirmed by a DNA study conducted by Indian scholars from the Zoological Survey of India.
The Chinese study, conducted by scientist Yibo Hu, had claimed that the Yalu Zangbu River near Tibet was the geographical barrier that led to the divergence of the red panda species into two varieties.
“We collected 132 fecal samples: 29 from Northwest Bengal, 28 from Sikkim and 75 from Arunachal Pradesh. Genomic DNA was extracted … sequencing was performed … We also downloaded 44 complementary red panda sequences available to the public domain”, said ZSI scientist Dr. Mukesh Thakur. In contrast, the Chinese study analyzed only 18 samples from Nepal. Indian scientists found that DNA samples from red pandas in the Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh matched those from CRP.

India vs. China in Red Pandas; DNA Finds Chinese and Himalayan Subspecies Exist Here | India News

“The samples collected from the Dibang Valley were actually located east of the Siang River, indicating that this same river in Arunachal Pradesh has been the potential barrier to species divergence in the red panda,” the study noted.
“Some studies reported that large rivers often function as a barrier in the distribution and gene flow of arboreal and small mammals. Therefore, the appearance of a Chinese red panda in Dibang in AP that is east of the Siang River was in accordance with the fact that the Siang River is a potential geographic barrier in several species, including Hoolock Gibbon, Tailed Macaque. stump, pig-tailed macaque … “the study notes.
“Furthermore, the Yalu Zangbu River descends from 4500 to 3000 m and the surrounding vegetation changes from a cold desert to an arid steppe to a deciduous scrub vegetation and this becomes a coniferous and rhododendron forest when it enters Arunachal Pradesh, India32. Therefore, changes in the topographic features and the habitat types mentioned often influence the distribution and movement of animals across the river. Therefore, it is imperative to mention the Siang River, the regional stretch of the Yalu Zangbu River in western Arunachal Pradesh, India, which is responsible for hindering the movement of the red panda through the mountain range … ”, he notes.
The Himalyan red panda was found to be active mainly west of the Siang River as established from samples collected in Darjeeling, Sikkim, southern Tibet, western and central Arunachal Pradesh and “concludes that we have a presence of both subspecies, “Thakur said. TOI.
His research article in Nature, titled Geological and Pleistocene Glaciations, explains in more detail the demographics and disjunct distribution of the red panda in the eastern Himalayas.
The paper that has been co-authored by ZSI Director Dr. Kailash Chandra, along with seven other Indian scholars, also reveals a surprising revelation that the red panda actually diverged into Chinese and Himalatine species approximately 0.3 million ago. of years.
“That corresponds to the transition of the middle-late Pleistocene (ice age) …”, he says.
The study in the journal Nature also criticizes the Chinese claim that the Chinese red panda had low genetic variations.
In their work, Indian scientists found that the CRP population in the Dibang Valley has diverged genetically three times and HRP had also diverged twice 0.17 million years ago and 0.12 million years ago.
“Recently, Hu (Chinese scientist), demonstrated the presence of two phylogenetic species, the Himalayan red panda (Ailurus fulgens) and the Chinese red panda (Ailurus styani) and proposed that the Yalu Zangbu River has been the potential limit of divergence. of species27. Their study sequenced 18 samples from Nepal and inferred that it suffered from three historical bottlenecks (followed by a small expansion which consequently imparts low genetic diversity) … In contrast, we did not observe low genetic variation in the region of DNA control “, states the Nature study conducted by Indian scientists.
Indian scientists claim that the Dibang panda population, which is found on the eastern edge of the Siang River, evolved with the CRP species and further separated into three different lineages.
They also say that even the Himalyan Red Panda diverged around 0.17 million years ago (mya) during the penultimate ice age and interestingly enough, the individuals of the KL population independently emerged around 0.12 mya.
The scientists further stated that their study also found that the HRP population in the Kanchenjunga-India (KL) landscape had declined sharply in the past 5-10 thousand years due to environmental changes.
The red panda has lost 50% of its population in the last 20 years and now only 2,500 individuals survive in the wild in India, China, Tibet, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan.
“Conservation of the red panda requires the participation of countries and coordination of multiple agencies,” said Chandra.

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