Genetic analysis helps protect koalas

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genetic analysis koala
Photo: artistrobd – 123rf

Using the occasion of Australia Day, scientists from The University of Western Australia unveiled a genetic analysis of the koala, which could help better understand how to protect the beloved iconic Australian species.

DNA Zoo Australia director Associate Professor Parwinder Kaur, from UWA’s School of Agriculture and Environment, said genetic analysis would allow researchers for the first time to visualise the koala genome in three dimensions.

“This will help us understand koalas’ co-evolution with native eucalyptus species, how to develop stronger vaccines to prevent common diseases in the species and better ways of supporting their disrupted populations due to deadly bushfires,” A/Professor Kaur said.

“Because of their slow movements and eucalypt trees being highly flammable, koalas are particularly at risk during bushfire season.

“The situation is made worse by their natural instinct to seek refuge in higher branches, where the heat and flames from bushfires are most prevalent.”

The scientists from UWA partnered with Ranger Red’s Zoo & Conservation Park to obtain a genome sample of the biologically unique mammal that thrives on highly toxic eucalyptus leaves which would kill most other animals.

“From the sample provided, we were able to sequence the koala’s complete DNA architecture and analyse the genetic data to produce a chromosome-length genome assembly to better understand the creature,” A/Professor Kaur said.

Bradley Holland, from Ranger Red’s Zoo & Conservation Park, added: “The research will contribute towards projects on Kangaroo Island which involve expanding the genetic diversification of koalas and restoring their habitat following the 2019/20 bushfires.”

This article was sourced from News on the UWA website.

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