Koala genome research to unravel genetic mysteries

Australia quiet lacks a map of koala genetic range, or an judgement of the similarities between southern and northern animals, says Dr Hogg.

“After the [Black Summer] the bushfires we lost 25% of koala habitat and we really have no idea what else we lost.

Koala experts have taken tiny skin samples from animals in far eastern Victoria to add to a genetic map of their species which scientists hope will help them understand how to better conserve the species.

Koala experts have taken tiny skin samples from animals in far eastern Victoria to add to a genetic map of their species which scientists hope will help them understand how to better conserve the species.

This level of deep genome sequencing has not yet been attempted for any animal outside of humans, but later the program will focus on the genomes of other species including the bilby, numbat and island skink. Christmas.

The long-term future of Australian koalas is uncertain and the situation is different in northern and southern states. Koala numbers are declining in New South Wales and Queensland due to habitat clearance and loss, bushfires and disease.

But in Victoria, they suffer from a devastating overabundance in some areas and low genetic diversity. This is a historical legacy of the state’s post-hunting era attempts to repopulate with koalas from island populations that had tiny gene pools.

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This left present-day Victorian koalas vulnerable to starvation and conditions such as the facial tumor that devastated Tasmanian devil populations.

“Because Victorian koalas are so genetically downhearted, in the event that they’re susceptible to any illness that manifests, then that is it,” says Dr Ashman, “We’re on a precarious tightrope with koalas right here.”

Fortunately, there may be small pockets of genetically diverse Victorian koala populations left over from pre-hunting times, including in the Strezlecki Ranges, which the Genome Project hopes to identify.

WWF-Australia’s Koalas Forever program goals to double the variety of koalas on the east skim by 2050.

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