The long-standing identity crisis of Hanuman langur, the most widespread langurs of South Asia might finally be resolved, a recent study has suggested.
Even though it has been extensively studied, the taxonomic status of this species remains unresolved due to incongruence between various classification schemes.
Taxonomy is the branch of science concerned with classification, especially of organisms.
Researchers have divided the Hanuman langur into 3-4 different species based on genetic differences. This mirrors a classification scheme proposed in the 1930s, which relied on differences in physical appearance to distinguish species.
The discovery, according to them, is an important step in identifying unique populations that could be threatened by human activity.
Hanuman langurs are monkeys belonging to the larger taxonomic group Semnopithecus, which is widely distributed in South Asia. These agile animals are found across diverse habitats - from arid lands to forests, and human-dominated landscapes.
Over the years, researchers have struggled to classify Hanuman langurs of peninsular India into smaller taxonomic units. Some scientists have called them a single widespread entity; others have recognised up to seven species based on variation in colour and form, and on specimens representing different populations.
Researchers from the Centre for Ecological Sciences (CES) in Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (IISc) have attempted to rest this case.
They collected over a hundred faecal samples and a few road-kill tissue samples from Hanuman langurs across peninsular India. They used DNA from these samples to obtain sequences of five different genetic markers - one mitochondrial gene, and two protein-coding and non-coding regions each from nuclear DNA, the researchers quoted by Gubbi Labs say.