Researchers have teamed up across the globe to study the koala genome uncovering a higher genetic diversity species wide than in other marsupials. The discovery discredits low genetic diversity as the reason behind extinctions and declining populations of koalas.
Researchers have come together from the University of Sydney, James Cook University (JCU) , the NGO Science for Wildlife organisation and San Diego Zoo, partnering to assist in koala conservation research. The team worked with cutting edge genetic technology using whole-genome DNA sequencing.
Associate Professor Kyall Zenger, from JCU was excited by the conservation possibilities the study will enable.
“To effectively manage koalas across Australia and in captivity we must understand how genetically diverse these populations are – how ‘fit’ they are. Until now there has been a lack of species-wide information to help coordinate conservation efforts,” says Zenger. “These results have shown the genetic diversity of the koalas sampled from all key locations on the east coast of Australia is far from being inbred, and actually is as diverse as many other wild species.”
Jennifer Tobey from the San Diego Institute for Conservation research believes the study will be used as a tool to better manage the decline of koala species and enable researchers to minimise inbreeding.
“The Australian research gives for the first time a clear view on how captive populations can be mapped to the national koala population, and to manage breeding to maximise genetic diversity.”