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Scientists Try To Map Animal Genes To Save Them From Extinction Down the Line

The project has similarities with the Earth BioGenome Project, which seeks to catalog the genomes for 1.5 million species.

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This undated photo provided by NOAA Fisheries, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows alewives, a species of river herring in North Kingstown, R.I. The federal government's National Marine Fisheries Service is looking at the health of the populations of alewives and blueback herring to see if the little fish should be listed under the Endangered Species Act. VOA

A group of scientists unveiled the first results Thursday of an ambitious effort to map the genes of tens of thousands of animal species, a project they said could help save animals from extinction down the line.

The scientists are working with the Genome 10,000 consortium on the Vertebrate Genomes Project, which is seeking to map the genomes of all 66,000 species of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish on Earth. Genome 10,000 has members at more than 50 institutions around the globe, and the Vertebrate Genomes Project last year.

The consortium Thursday released the first 15 such maps, ranging from the Canada lynx to the kakapo, a flightless parrot native to New Zealand.

Future conservation

The genome is the entire set of genetic material that is present in an organism. The release of the first sets is “a statement to the world that what we want to accomplish is indeed feasible,” said Harris Lewin, a professor of evolution at University of California, Davis, who is working on the project.

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The work is intriguing because it could inform future conservation efforts of jeopardized species. VOA

“The time has come, but of course it’s only the beginning,” Lewin said.

The work will help inform future conservation of jeopardized species, scientists working on the project said. The first 14 species to be mapped also include the duck-billed platypus, two bat species and the zebra finch. The zebra finch was the one species for which both sexes were mapped, bringing the total to 15.

Sequencing the genome of tens of thousands of animals could easily take 10 years, said Sadye Paez, program director for the project. But giving scientists access to this kind of information could help save rare species because it would give conservationists and biologists a new set of tools, she said.

Paez described the project as an effort to “essentially communicate a library of life.”

Three sequencing hubs

Tanya Lama, a doctoral candidate in environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, coordinated the effort to sequence the lynx genome. The wild cat is the subject of debate about its conservation status in the United States, and better understanding of genetics can better protect its future, Lama said.

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Genome 10,000 has members at more than 50 institutions around the globe, and the Vertebrate Genomes Project last year. Pixabay

“It’s going to help us plan for the future, help us generate tools for monitoring population health, and help us inform conservation strategy,” she said.

The project has three “genome sequencing hubs,” including Rockefeller University in New York, the Sanger Institute outside Cambridge, England, and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany, organizers said.

The work is intriguing because it could inform future conservation efforts of jeopardized species, said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity who is not involved in the project. More information about animals’ genetics could lead to better understanding of how animals resist disease or cope with changes in the environment, she said.

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Sequencing the genome of tens of thousands of animals could easily take 10 years, said Sadye Paez, program director for the project. Pixabay

“I think what’s interesting to me from a conservation aspect is just what we might be able to discern about the genetic diversity within a species,” Matteson said.

Also Read: British Scientists Use Sunlight And Convert it to Fuel

The project has similarities with the Earth BioGenome Project, which seeks to catalog the genomes for 1.5 million species. Lewin chairs that project’s working group. The Vertebrate Genomes Project will contribute to that effort. (VOA)

Next Story

Czech Scientists Find way to Extract Water From Air

The project will be showcased at the Dubai Expo 2020, to be held between October 2020 and April 2021

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Scientists, Water, Air
A team of scientists from the Technical University in Prague have said they found a method of extracting water from air using an autonomous solar-powered system. Pixabay

A team of scientists from the Technical University in Prague have said they found a method of extracting water from air using an autonomous solar-powered system.

The first prototype of Solar Air Water Earth Resource (SAWER) has the capacity to produce 100 litres of drinking water per day anywhere on the planet, even in the desert.

The experts installed SAWER in the United Arab Emirates’ town of Sweihan, located about 70 km east of Abu Dhabi.

“It is not a revolutionary process, but an unusual one,” civil and environmental engineering professor Tomas Matuska told Efe news, adding it used dehumidifiers that are often employed in the food industry.

Matuska explained that the two-stage system consists of a desiccant that holds water molecules in its surface and then an air heater produces water vapour to be taken back to the surface.

A group of 12 scientists started the project in the Czech Republic’s capital in 2017 and created the first prototype that can be transported in two six-meter-long cargo containers.

One of the containers holds the production unit including distilled water equipment, while the second contains the accumulators to boost heat and cold processes, as well as energy control systems.

The experts installed SAWER in the United Arab Emirates’ town of Sweihan, located about 70 km east of Abu Dhabi. Pixabay

Photovoltaic modules are placed on the two containers in order to produce the energy necessary to start the process.

The movable device aims to establish timely living conditions, or to facilitate civil-military operations in inhospitable places requiring an emergency water supply.

“The test (near Abi Dhabi) will last about six months, because we want to have information with data from summer, autumn and winter,” said Matuska, who is part of the team that developed SAWER in Prague.

The device will be tested in the laboratory during this period, although Matuska said it only requires “air filter changes, water canister emptying and cleaning for the photovoltaic modules.”

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The prototype cost about 360,000 euros ($400,000), making the water extracted very expensive – $10 per litre in the first year.

The project will be showcased at the Dubai Expo 2020, to be held between October 2020 and April 2021.

“There is a great interest in our project, from the US to Australia,” Matuska said, adding: “We have signed a confidentiality agreement with a company with businesses in the Persian Gulf area.” (IANS)