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The Caspian Hare

Scientists crack Koala genetic code

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The Caspian Hare

https://today.uconn.edu/2018/07/scientists-crack-koalas-genetic-code/

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An international team of scientists including UConn genomicist Rachel O’Neill have sequenced the first full koala genome, they report today in Nature Genetics. The koala’s genes have already revealed some of the furry tree dweller’s secrets, from how it digests toxic eucalyptus leaves to why it’s susceptible to chlamydia.

Koalas are marsupials, along with kangaroos, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and opossums. Marsupials give birth when their young are still very small and underdeveloped, and then raise the babies in a pouch for several additional months. They diverged from other mammals a very long time ago, and scientists have suspected that the marsupial genome could answer many questions about how early mammals evolved.

“Koalas are an iconic marsupial mammal,” says O’Neill, professor of molecular and cell biology. “Everyone knows what a koala looks like, which makes it a great species to use as an educational tool. But they are at risk due to population crashes in the distant past and an emerging infectious virus.”

Figuring out their genome – spelling out all the genes and which chromosome, or DNA molecule, each gene is on – gives biologists the opportunity to identify genes related to the koala’s response to viruses, and identify boundaries of population diversity that can direct conservation efforts

 

 

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