Sika Deer Have Remained Protected Due To Their Spiritual Status For Almost 1,400 Years, And New Research Suggests This Species Has Unique Mitochondrial DNA That Can Only Be Passed From Mother To Offspring

Killing a sika deer was punishable by death until 1637, and after World War Two, the deer around the shrine were declared as natural monuments. The deer were hunted outside of the religious sanctuary, which isolated the population at Nara.

The team collected 294 blood and muscle samples from sika deer across 30 different sites. They determined that the deer within the Kasuga Taisha Shrine had a more restricted flow of genes, indicating a “pure lineage spanning more than a thousand years.”

The deer beyond the shrine had mixed genetic heritage. These deer could threaten the unique lineage of the population within the shrine as they continue to inhabit areas surrounding Nara Park.

The latest genetic research has the potential to change management policies for deer as the people of Nara are now faced with a crucial decision—to continue conserving sacred genetics or end the isolation that has endured for over a thousand years.

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