Himalayan marmots can survive at altitudes up to 5,000 meters in the Himalayan regions of India, Nepal, and Pakistan and on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of China, where many of them face extreme cold, little oxygen, and few other resources. Now, researchers have sequenced the first complete Himalayan marmot genome, which may help them to better explain how the marmots live in such extremes.
The findings, which appear December 20 in the journal iScience, hint at the genetic mechanisms underlying high-altitude adaptation and hibernation, the researchers say. They also serve as a valuable resource for researchers studying marmot evolution, highland disease, and cold adaptation.
“As one of the highest-altitude-dwelling mammals, the Himalayan marmot is chronically exposed to cold temperature, hypoxia, and intense UV radiation,” said Enqi Liu of Xi’an Jiaotong University Health Science Center in China. “They also hibernate for more than six months during the wintertime.”