May 13, 2017 06:26 AM EDT
Panthera uncia aka the snow leopard is considered as the monotypic species on Earth, but in a recent study, scientists have three new sub-species with the same genus. The large big cat family is known to inhabit across 12 countries in Asia covering almost 1.6 million square-kilometer.
A research team from Duquesne University started studying on the poop of snow leopard from different wildlife trails and marking sites. In the Journal of Heredity, researchers published that they have found three primary genetic clusters which were differentiated by geographical location. For the first time in history, scientists made a genetic analysis of wild snow leopard population.
The snow leopard subspecies that was found in Altai region, researchers named as Panthera uncia irbis. Panthera Uncia Uncia was found in the Tian Shan, Pamir, and trans-Himalaya regions, and the third one, Panthera uncia uncioides was found in the core Himalaya and Tibetan Plateau. The snow leopard is the largest carnivore species in the world that can live at more than 3000-meter elevation with low oxygen levels, temperature extremes, aridity, and harsh climactic conditions.
Lead researcher and biologist from Duquesne University, Dr. Jan E. Janecka said in a statement,“This study is important as it provides the first glimpse of how snow leopard populations are structured and connected, in a nutshell, populations that are connected with other populations, are more stable and have a greater chance of persisting”. Phys.org reported the snow leopard is the comprehensive subspecies assessment among the last five big cats.
Researchers mentioned about three difficulties while genetical sampling the snow leopard. First of all, it is really harder to access their habitat because of high altitude. Secondly, it is almost next to impossible to track their activities in radio or GPS, third and the most important factor is the weather of the habitat. A normal person cannot stay there for a long time due to low oxygen level, so researchers collected the poop samples as an effective to study.