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Walking relics - moose in Siberia carry genes thought to have vanished with the Ice Age

By The Siberian Times reporter
09 February 2016

New research shows some Siberian elk keep ancient genes thought to have vanished up to 24,000 years ago.

Genetic gems hidden within modern-day gangs of elk match those found on ancient remains of the animal. Picture: Sergey Karpukhin

This genetic gems hidden within modern-day gangs of elk (the European name for moose) match those found on ancient remains of the animal, held, for example, in the international computer database GenBank.

These genetic lines are believed to have been widespread between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago, but to have vanished with the Ice Age reached its zenith, some 18,000 to 24,000 years ago. 

Olga Nemoikina, researcher of the Biological Institute of Tomsk State University, said: 'Western Siberia remains a white spot. The molecular studies of animals was almost never held here.'

She said the discovery 'confirms the existence of regugia' - namely, places where populations can survive in unfavourable conditions, for example glaciation.

Moose petroglyph in Kemerovo region

Ancient petroglyph of a moose on Tomskaya Pisanitsa - famouse rock art site on the bank of Tom river, Kemerovo region. Picture: Perevalnext.ru

The moose were 'saved' here, and the same may apply to other animals, she suspects. In such areas, rare genetics lines can be preserved. When the population grew again, these lines got into the common gene pool and increased the bio-diversity, which helped the adjustment  to changing conditions.

Western Siberia is almost an ideal plain without big natural barriers, so the moose could spread wide and pass rare genetic lines, it is believed. 

In earlier joint research with the specialists from the A N Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution in Moscow, Olga Nemoikina found out that the genes of moose in Western Siberia contain the American haplogroup. Previously it was thought that in this region lived only European moose or elk.

She said: 'The wildlife is Western Siberia can be kind of genetic repository for those species who live here.' 

The genetic heirloom from ancient times is believed to apply to modern day moose in the regions of Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, and part of Omsk, as well as Altai.

Comments (1)

So there are "American haplogroup" Elk/Moose in Siberia...:-). It is indeed a small world we live in...:-) (actually could they have come over from Alaska or Canada's Northern Territories at some point?). This is a tremendous scientific discovery, great work by all involved. We have so much to learn from nature about our earth's history and subsequently our own human history as well. Thank you for sharing these learnings with all of us.
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
10/02/2016 06:42
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