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Swedish Moose Genomic Study Sheds Light on Hunting's Impact and Conservation Challenges

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Intense hunting in the 18th and 19th centuries pushed the Swedish moose to the brink of extinction. Now, a groundbreaking genomic study reveals how they fared genetically through that near-apocalyptic period.

Led by researchers from Stockholm University and Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, the study delved into 87 moose genomes spanning 1840 to 2019. Remarkably, despite nearing extinction, these majestic creatures have retained much of their genetic diversity, without significant signs of harmful inbreeding.

However, not all news was positive. Regional genetic disparities surfaced, with southern populations like Öland showing increased inbreeding risks. Moreover, recent changes in certain genes related to health (fertility, body weight, etc.) were noticed. These could be repercussions of fluctuating populations or hunting strategies, indicating that harvesting may affect not just population size but also genetic health.

As the world grapples with biodiversity challenges, such findings underscore the need to integrate genetic considerations in wildlife management plans. The health of a species isn't just about numbers, but the genetic richness within.

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