Saiga antelope: assessing ecological resilience in a critically endangered mammal

Theme: Biodiversity & Ecology
Primary Supervisor:

Ian Barnes

Earth Sciences, NHM

Secondary Supervisor:

Danielle Schreve

Geography, RHUL

Project Description:

The role of environmental change in driving faunal population size and distribution remains a central topic in palaeontology, and is critical to our ability to predict future ecological responses to ongoing environmental change. However, the mechanisms that determine the rate and extent of these population processes are still poorly understood.

This project will involve morphological and genetic (ancient DNA) analyses of fossil material to explore the history of a particularly important steppe specialist large mammal species, saiga antelope, during a period of large-scale environmental change – the  Late Pleistocene.

Today critically endangered, saiga were formerly distributed across Europe, Asia and into North America. The project will resolve some problematic phylogenetic and taxonomic issues, in order to establish the number of extinct species of saiga, and then examine  the timing, speed, and nature of saiga population dynamics within a dynamic environmental framework.

Policy Impact of Research:

Potential end-users for these data include conservation biologists, palaeontologists, and evolutionary biologists interested in the long-term effects of climate and anthropogenically driven environmental change.

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