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Genome Study Uncovers Mysteries Of Endangered Chinese Alligator

Scientists have analyzed the genome of the endangered Chinese alligator, uncovering insights into how they adapt to aquatic environments.

| August 15, 2013 | In the Lab

Asian Scientist (Aug. 15, 2013) - Chinese scientists have analyzed the genome of the endangered Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis), uncovering insights into how they adapt to aquatic environments and how temperature can determine sex in reptiles.

In a study published in Cell Research, Chinese scientists from Zhejiang University and BGI have completed the genome sequencing and analysis of the endangered Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis). This is the first published crocodilian genome, providing a good explanation of how terrestrial-style reptiles adapt to aquatic environments and temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD).

The Chinese alligator is critically endangered with a population of around 100 wild and about 10,000 captive individuals in China's Zhejiang and Anhui Provinces. Great efforts have been put into uncovering the mysteries of this species because they are uniquely adapted to live in both water and land habitats.

In this study, published in Cell Research, researchers collected a Chinese alligator sample from Changxing Yinjiabian Chinese Alligator Nature Reserve (Zhejiang Province, China) and sequenced its genome. The genomic data yielded a draft sequence of the Chinese alligator from which a total of 22,200 genes were predicted.

The genomic data provided genetic insights explaining why the Chinese alligator can hold its breath under water for long periods of time, enabling it to live in water habitats.

The researchers also found genetic evidence of changes in the alligator's sensory and immune systems which may have allowed it to transition to water-based living.

The Chinese alligator also has no sex chromosomes and is the first species exhibiting temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) to have its genome sequenced. For species exhibiting TSD, temperatures experienced during embryonic development determine the sex of the offspring since there are no sex chromosomes.

The researchers hope that the genome of the Chinese alligator may provide insights for resolving questions related to the evolution of sex chromosomes and also help in the conservation of this endangered alligator species.

The article can be found at: Wan et al. (2013) Genome Analysis And Signature Discovery For Diving And Sensory Properties Of The Endangered Chinese Alligator.


Source: BGI; Photo: Mark Dumont/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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