They stand tall and proud in the high grasslands of the Earth, across northern India, China, and Nepal. They are known for their long snouts and low-pitched calls. They are the Himalayan wolves. But what makes them an interesting subject of study? It is their genes which are very distinct from gray wolves — genes that help them breathe through thin air above 4000 meters.
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Himalayan wolves live at higher altitudes than grays, which range across eastern China, Mongolia, and Kyrgyzstan, and their habits are different, too. Whereas gray wolves primarily eat rodents, Himalayan wolves add the occasional Tibetan gazelle to the mix. And Himalayans howl their own tune, with cries of a shorter duration and lower frequency than those of grays.
… Analysis showed that, unlike gray wolves, Himalayans carry specialized genes that help them overcome a lack of oxygen, including ones that strengthen the heart and boost the delivery of oxygen through the blood.
Calls to recognize the Himalayan wolf as a different species have been made in the past, and now this finding supports that call.
(Image Credit: Geraldine Werhahn/ Himalayan Wolves Project)