Nestled in the Indian Himalayas, 16,500 feet above sea level, sits Roopkund Lake. The lake, 130 feet wide, is frozen for much of the year, a frosty pond in a lonely, snowbound valley. But on warmer days, it delivers a macabre performance, as hundreds of human skeletons emerge from what has become known as Skeleton Lake.
Who were these individuals, and what befell them? One leading idea was that they died simultaneously in a catastrophic event more than 1,000 years ago. But a new genetic analysis carried out by scientists in India, U.S. and Germany has upended that theory. The study, which examined DNA from 38 remains — 23 male and 15 female — indicates that there wasn’t just one mass dumping of the dead, but several, spread over a millennium.
These individuals fit into three genetic groups. Twenty-three had ancestries typical of contemporary South Asians; their remains were deposited between the 7th and 10th centuries, and not all at once. Then, perhaps 1,000 years or so later, two more genetic groups appeared within the lake: one individual of East Asian-related ancestry and, curiously, 14 people of eastern Mediterranean ancestry.
Panthers hit with crippling disorder
Trail cameras in three southwest Florida counties have identified eight endangered panthers and one bobcat that seem to have trouble walking, affected by a mysterious neurological disorder that seems to hit kittens hardest.
In one video shared by the agency, a panther kitten stumbles several times as it follows its mother and sibling, dragging its lower body. State officials have also confirmed nerve damage firsthand in another panther and another bobcat.
“While the number of animals exhibiting these symptoms is relatively few, we are increasing monitoring efforts to determine the full scope of the issue,” said Gil McRae, the director of the state’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.
The first video footage of a struggling kitten was taken by a citizen and sent to the agency in 2018. Later, a review of still photos from 2017 seemed to show another ailing kitten. This year the number of cases has increased. “It was not until 2019 that additional reports have been received, suggesting that this is a broader issue,” spokeswoman for Carli Segelson said.
The panther is the only remaining puma population in the eastern U.S. In the 1990s, the Florida panther population dipped to around 20 cats, but the number rebounded with the addition of eight female pumas captured in Texas. In the past decade, however, as the Florida panther population has grown in step with human development in the animal’s habitat, scores of panthers have been killed crossing roads.