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Explained: Here’s what the new research on India’s hoolock gibbons says

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In its latest study, the Hyderabad-based CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology has shared details on the population of western hoolock gibbons in India’s North-eastern region. The study found that these species are mostly found in the region surrounded by large rivers. They also pose barriers to populations on either side.

According to an Indian Express report, disturbances due to the landscape caused by human beings increased the problem, leading to an increase in isolated subpopulations which are part of a wider ‘metapopulation’.

With the aim of collecting faecal samples of hoolock gibbon, researchers collect faecal samples from areas they mostly locate in. For this, researchers followed individual hoolock gibbon for a proper sampling strategy. Notably, faecial remains are useful for research as they contain epithelial cells from the intestine, as also undigested food remains.

Dr Govindhaswamy Umapathy, during an email interaction with pointed out, “ when we extract DNA from faecal samples, we find all kinds of DNA, including from food, but we only amplify further using primate specific markers for further analysis where in other species’ DNA will be left behind.”

Earlier too, faecal has been used to study population size, occupation and other details among various species. Umapathy also said, ‘barcoding undigested and digested food materials can be done using barcode markers to identify food species.’ Faecal samples were then supplemented by blood samples of hoolock gibbons that were kept in zoos.

Researchers further conduct studies on mitochondrial DNA, which is monoploid as compared to the nuclear DNA. In simple terms, mitochondrial DNA is present as small circular chromosomes and not as a pair of chromosomes. While unlike nuclear DNA, it does not undergo recombination and is inherited from mother to progeny. This makes it quite prone to various diseases. This makes mitochondrial DNA a very significant molecular marker in ecological studies.

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