Species / International Ovis

Kharaulakh Ridge Snow Sheep

Ovis nivicola ssp


The Kharaulakh Mountain Range, a range of mountains in far North-eastern Russia. The Kharaulakh Range has two subranges running parallel to the main mountain chain, the Tuora-Sis Range to the west by the shores of the Lena, and the Kunga Range at the eastern flank. The highest point of the range is an unnamed peak reaching 4,688 feet. [2]


The Kharaulakh Snow Sheep is a subspecies – not yet described, most closely related to the Yakutia snow sheep.


Low-altitude Kharaulakh Mountains [1], presumably treeless.



Dotsev, A. et al (2018) applied a gene analyses (using the Ovine SNP50 BeadChip developed for domestic sheep) to examine population structure and evaluate genetic diversity of Snow Sheep (Ovis nivicola) inhabiting the Verkhoyansk Mountains and Momsky Ridge. A “neighbor-Net analysis based on pairwise FST distances” depicted a network representing the phylogenetic relationships between the studied populations. It was shown that while four subpopulations further south are all related to each other in the tree, Kharaulakh Snow Sheep was an isolated group, related only to the closest subpopulation further south. [1]

In terms of genetic diversity Dotsev, A. et al (2018) found that the heterozygosity levels (high heterozygosity mean lots of genetic variability) were lowest in Kharaulakh Snow Sheep, the northernmost population. Accordingly, the lowest allelic richness (number of variants form of a given gene) was also found in Kharaulakh Snow Sheep. Both values – heterozygosity and allelic richness – increased southwards. The inbreeding coefficient was not significant. [1]
As Kharaulakh Snow Sheep occurs at the edge of the species distribution – the northernmost tip of the Verkhoyansk Mountain chain – gene transfer with other populations is limited. [1]
Using the “f3 statistics and TreeMix analysis” it was discovered that Kharaulakh Snow Sheep has a different origin than the neighboring populations to the south. Most likely, Kharaulakh Snow Sheep was isolated from the other groups of Snow Sheep during ice age (Late Pleistocene). Apparently, the low-altitude Kharaulakh Mountains played a role as a glacial refugium. Kharaulakh Snow Sheep was separated from the next population to the south for “several thousand years”. [1]

[1] Dotsev, AV; Deniskova, TE; Okhlopkov, IM, et al., 2018: Genome-wide SNP analysis unveils genetic structure and phylogeographic history of snow sheep (Ovis nivicola) populations inhabiting the Verkhoyansk Mountains and Momsky Ridge (northeastern Siberia). Ecol Evol. 2018;00:1–1

[2] Great Soviet Encyclopedia

GSCO has recently received a considerable amount of research data on the Kharaulakh Ridge Snow Sheep. The GSCO Species Committee has examined major genetic studies and analysis with all scientific data confirming this is a separate sub-species.

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