Monday, October 8, 2018
Canada Celebrates Birthday With Gift to Genetics
Last year was a special one for Canada, as they celebrated their 150th birthday. As a gift to science, they began an ambitious project, Canseq150. They mapped the genome of the beaver, their national animal, in time for the special day, and they're still working. They wont stop until they've mapped the genome of 150 of Canada's most Canadian species.
This data will allow scientists to investigate the evolution of these animals within Canada's ecosystem, as well as in relation to each other. For example by comparing the genome of the lynx to its prey, the snowshoe hair. It will also help with conservation efforts and breeding. Additionally, they hope to perfect the technology used in the process and may even learn new tequniques. They expect the project to take three years, and allow for the possibility of gene editing to follow.
You can even get involved as well. They are accepting submissions of species to be sequenced. The only guideline is that it has to be of cultural, ecological, or economic significance to Canada. I did an internship in BC over the summer, and submitted a form for the Vancouver island marmot (shown above). It was actually chosen, though I'm guessing I wasn't the only one to suggest it. This little critter lives only on Vancouver island and is highly endangered. At one point there were only 30 left. It's an animal uniquely Canadian that teaches us the importance of conservation. Other animals chosen so far include the Canadian jay, Maritimes shrew, northern flying squirrel, white sided dolphin and northern fur seal.