Genomics-Based Decisions May Help Save Species From Extinction: Study
Genomics-Based Decisions Can Help Save Species From Extinction: Study | Photo credit: Pixabay
Washington: Researchers from Copenhagen, Norwich and Lund University have shown that harmful mutations in DNA play an important, but neglected, role in conservation and transfer programs for endangered species.
“Many species are threatened with extinction, both locally and globally. For example, we have lost a dozen species of vertebrates in Sweden over the past century.
However, all of these species are present elsewhere in Europe, which means that they could be reintroduced to Sweden. Our computer simulations show how we could theoretically maximize the success of such recoveries, ”says Bengt Hansson, a biologist at Lund University.
In a new study published in Science, researchers investigated which individuals might be most suited to translocation to new populations. To date, conservation geneticists have chosen to select the most genetically variable individuals.
However, the authors argue that it is important to consider what kind of genetic variation is being moved. Using computer simulations, they showed that harmful mutations in the genome of translocated individuals can cause problems for future generations. This so-called “mutation load” could jeopardize the long-term viability of the new population and possibly lead to its extinction.
According to Hansson and van Oosterhout, geneticists at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, who led the study, the best choice is to exclude individuals with many harmful mutations, while selecting individuals from several different source populations. .
“Active translocation of animals between localities is sometimes the last option available to conservation biologists. By carefully selecting individuals based on their low mutation load, we can minimize the loss of fitness that is normally associated with inbreeding in small populations, ”says Bengt Hansson.
Huge advances have been made in DNA sequencing technologies, and the entire genomes of individuals can now be sequenced relatively inexpensively. This opens up new possibilities for improving the conservation management of endangered species.
“For many species of mammals and birds, we now know which mutations are harmful. Similar mutations are also found in humans, so we understand what they do and therefore we know what to do. look for when analyzing sequence data from these species, “said van Oosterhout.
The advantage of using DNA sequencing is that we can see these mutations in the genome, even if an individual carries only one copy of the mutant gene. This means that we can pick out those bad mutations before they even cause a problem.
“Our computer model shows that at least theoretically, this ensures the best probability of population survival. It could help conservation officials choose the optimal individuals of an endangered species for translocation into a new habitat,” said added van Oosterhout.