Evolution of blackbuck and Chinkara found outDate: 23 September 2019 Tags: Biodiversity
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, studied four genera of ‘true antelopes’, Gazella, Nanger, Eudorcas and Antelopes and found that the blackbuck’s (Antilope cervicapra) ancestors came into India from the Saharo-Arabian region about two million years ago and then evolved to its current form.
Researchers usually use mitochondrial DNA for genetic analysis. However, the research team used nuclear DNA, which has genetic material from both parents. They used 12 different nuclear markers for the study.
The paper states that the lack of blackbuck fossils outside India leads to the speculation that they diverged from their ancestors only after reaching India when intensification of arid conditions in India occurred.
The expansion of grasslands opened up new niches, which allowed the taxa to evolve into its current form.
The very recent formation of the Thar desert could have been a barrier for Blackbuck species to move backwards.
Blackbucks have been confined to the scrubland regions of India, currently seen in most states, except for the Terai region, northeast and the Western Ghats. In the south, blackbucks can be seen in Tamil Nadu too.
It was also observed that Antelope was not a sister of Gazella, as was previously believed, but was within the same genera. This would call for reclassifying the genus.
The chinkara (Gazella bennetti), another ‘true antelope’ of India, evolved much more recently about 7, 00,000 years ago, after the establishment of the Thar desert.
These are also found in the hilly terrains of Iran, and are known as Iranian Gazelle. They are better adapted to the drier, semi-arid region because of their water drinking habits.
Genetics has now helped researchers to provide two different evolution theories. Though the blackbucks and chinkara look like sisters they actually may have very different evolutionary histories.
The blackbuck, also known as the Indian antelope, is an antelope found in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The blackbuck is the sole extant member of the genus Antelope.
Currently they are classified as near threatened species under IUCN.
The chinkara, also known as the Indian gazelle, is a gazelle species native to Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Its conservation status is Least concerned under IUCN.