Event Title : What could the occurrence of rare variants mean for the well-being of populations?

Session Theme : Genetics, evolution and gene flow, Session Chair : Axel Brockmann
Speaker Name: 
Vinay Sagar
Start Time: 
Monday, January 10, 2022 - 17:30
End Time: 
Monday, January 10, 2022 - 17:40
Talks Abstract: 

Tigers have a unique striping pattern that is known to exist in several coat color variants - normal orange, white with dark stripes, golden, and snow-white. The genetic basis of these color variants was uncovered by studying the captive populations of such tigers. Until a few years ago, all these variants were thought to exist only in captive populations. However, in the past five-six years, some variants have been photographed in natural populations. Phenotypic variations are driven by evolutionary forces such as selection and random genetic drift. We investigated the evolutionary processes driving the occurrence of another rare coat variant of tigers. This variant is distinguished by pattern elements that are broadened and fused together causing wide and merged stripes. Known as pseudomelanism, this variant has been observed only in one population globally - Similipal tiger reserve, Odisha. Using non-invasive samples of wild tigers from across India we showed that only Similipal tigers have the pseudomelanism causing mutation. We infer strong effects of random genetic drift on Similipal tigers from the population's small size, potential isolation, and high relatedness among individuals. Our results indicate that the occurrence of rare variants in specific natural populations could suggest ongoing rapid evolution and requires careful investigation. Currently, we are trying to understand the evolutionary processes driving the occurrence of two other rare variants, golden and white tigers, in natural populations.

Event Day: 
Day 1 (10th Jan 2022)