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Scientists sequence endangered Tasmanian devil's genome
Date:6/27/2011

o begin with. For this reason, choosing the right individuals to represent the broadest genetic diversity possible is critical for successful species preservation. "It might seem you'd want to choose only those individuals that are genetically resistant to the DFTD cancer. However, that would defeat the purpose of maintaining genetic diversity because, by definition, you'd be selecting a tiny subset of the gene pool," Schuster said. "Instead, our model suggests a more balanced approach. You don't want to put out just the one fire -- the cancer. Instead, you want to develop a pool of diverse, healthy individuals that can fight future maladies or even pathogens that have not yet evolved."

The second aspect of the project was to learn how much genetic diversity had been lost since Europeans settled Tasmania in 1803. To do this, the scientists analyzed a large number of genetic markers from an additional 175 Tasmanian devils, some of which were museum specimens from the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. and the Natural History Museum in London. Schuster explained that this approach to genomic research, which he has named "museomics," is truly unique and brimming with potential. "Museums are treasure troves of specimens collected in the last 250 years," Schuster said. "And, in fact, we can get DNA from hair shafts of a museum specimen." Schuster explained that DNA collection from hair is virtually non-destructive; that is, museum specimens are not damaged visually in the process of removing just a few hairs. Interestingly, after analyzing the 175 individuals, the scientists learned that the genomic diversity of the Tasmanian devil, while low, has not decreased much over the last century. "This is an important finding because it means that DFTD is not to blame for any lack of genetic diversity since the disease appeared only 15 years ago," Miller explained. "It's crucial that we act as responsible stewards for the species, helping maintain what little genetic diver
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Contact: Barbara Kennedy
science@psu.edu
814-863-4682
Penn State
Source:Eurekalert  

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Scientists sequence endangered Tasmanian devil's genome
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