Molecular Biology


The Endangered Species Recovery Plans in respect of four species viz. Great Indian Bustard, Gangetic dolphin, Dugong and Sangai deer aim to integrate multiple disciplines of ecology, management, and genetics for planning successful recovery of these endangered species. This multidisciplinary approach is critical as apart from threats from anthropogenic and natural causes, species with small population size are generally more prone to extinction due to poor genetic variability from inbreeding depression. In such cases, molecular interventions in species conservation are becoming critical globally as assessing genetic variations at population level is becoming important in the understanding of species ecology and evolution as genetic diversity retains the history of a species, and is vital for survival and future adaptation to changes. Given the low population sizes of the four target species, their fragmented habitats and integration of both ‘In situ’ and ‘Ex situ’ recovery plans, incorporation of molecular interventions (for example conservation genetics, pedigree analyses, genomics, transcriptomics, cryopreservation, germplasm conservation, and finally cloning, if required) would be critical to plan and implement at different stages of their recovery plans.

In the In situ component of all four species recovery programmes standard molecular marker based genetic tools will be used to gain important biological insights in the form of mitochondrial and nuclear genetic variations, individual identification, population estimation, demographic patterns, population connectivity, genetic structure, migration pattern and rate etc. We plan to use latest genomic tools to assess these biological parameters. Advances in genome sequencing and bioinformatics approaches are allowing the scientists to conduct comparative genomic studies to get better understanding on genome makeup and variation, identify risk factors for genetic disorders, geographical distribution of variation, infer demographic events such as bottlenecks and population expansions, identify loci under selection and other important genetic parameters.

In the Ex situ component, our focus will be to explore some of the widely used reproductive approaches in captivity, such as cross-fostering, artificial incubation, artificial insemination, and embryo transfer to improve reproductive success, increase population size and enhance genetic variability. Use of cryopreservation techniques of genome resources, sperm, and gametes are also becoming common and widely used approaches that allow potentially reintroduce extinct species back to wild.

Finally, recently developed physiology/endocrinology approaches can be extremely informative in monitoring psychological, nutritional, and reproductive health for both In situ and Ex situ species recovery plans. Quantifying population differences in psychological and nutritional stress as well as transmission of emergent pathogens associated with these disturbances are critical in understanding how these pressures take their toll on health and reproduction. We believe that this multidisciplinary approach will be helpful in successful recover of these species in their respective habitats.