Falcon Genome Project Sequences Genomes Of Iconic Peregrine And Saker Falcons
By Anusuya Das | Featured Research
December 21, 2011
Scientists from the UK, China, and the United Arab Emirates have sequenced the iconic peregrine and saker falcon genomes as part of the Falcon Genome Project.
AsianScientist (Dec. 21, 2011) – A group of scientists from the UK, China, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have jointly announced the complete sequencing of the peregrine and saker falcons genomes at the 2nd International Festival of Falconry held in Al Ain, UAE.
The study is a part of the Falcon Genome Project, launched and funded by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) this January.
“This study will open the door to an unparalleled understanding of falcon biology and help us to manage and conserve wild falcon stocks in the future,” said Dr. Andrew Dixon, Head of Research at International Wildlife Consultants Ltd (IWC).
The peregrine and saker falcons are widespread but heavily exploited birds of prey that are commonly found in the UAE. In particular, the saker is the national bird of the UAE.
In the past century, both falcons have been listed as endangered species with population declines caused by a wide range of factors including migration obstacles, environmental changes, habitat loss, use of pesticides (e.g. DDT, PCBs), among others.
In the late 1990s, the peregrine was successfully removed from the endangered species list through increased recovery efforts, but the saker is still facing this challenge.
Since January this year, scientists have been conducting genomic studies of the peregrine and saker falcons, with the aim of enhancing their conservation in rapidly changing habitats.
Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital provided blood samples collected from male specimens of peregrine and saker falcons, and BGI was responsible for sequencing these samples on its large-scale next-generation sequencing platforms. The bioinformatics analysis was conducted by scientists from Cardiff University in the UK and BGI.
“The complete genome sequencing of the two falcons will lay a solid scientific foundation for identifying the origin and populations of falcons and accelerating the selective breeding of high-quality varieties. We believe we will make more breakthroughs in this project to help researchers better protect these endangered species,” said Dr. Ning Li, CEO of BGI Europe.
Source: BGI; Photo credit: Middle East Falcon Research Group.
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