News from CRG, IBE, IMIM and UPF
Spanish scientists have sequenced the genome of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), currently one of the world’s most endangered felines. They have confirmed the “extreme erosion” suffered by its DNA. The Iberian lynx has one of the least genetically-diverse genomes. It is even less diverse than other endangered mammals, such as the cheetah or Tasmanian devil, or birds, like the crested ibis or osprey. The study, published in Genome Biology, has been coordinated by scientists from the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC) and several centres have participated, among them the IMIM, the CRG, the IBE (CSIS-UPF) and the CNAG-CRG. This is the first mammal genome of reference generated entirely in Spain.
The scientists have managed to read and organize 2.4 billion letters of DNA from Candiles, a male lynx born in the Sierra Morena lynx population. A total of 21,257 genes were identified, a number similar to that of other mammals. Researchers have found evidence of modifications in genes related with the senses of hearing, sight and smell to facilitate the adaptation of the lynx to its environment, which have enabled them to become exceptional hunters specialized in rabbits as prey.
With the aim of studying the history and genetic diversity of the species, analysis was conducted on the genomes of another ten Iberian lynxes from Doñana and Sierra Morena. Researchers have also completed a comparative analysis with a European lynx. The scientists warn that the low levels of diversity observed could impair the lynx’s capacity to adapt to changes in its environment. Furthermore, existence of multiple potentially harmful genetic variants has been confirmed, which could be contributing to the reduced survival and reproduction rates of the species.
Abascal et al. "Extreme genomic erosion after recurrent demographic bottlenecks in the highly endangered Iberian lynx" Genome Biology. 14th Dec 2016. DOI: 10.1186/s13059-016-1090-1.