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If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
24 September, 2018
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
<p>If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—<a href="https://vgp.github.io/genomeark/Lynx_canadensis/" target="_blank">point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx</a>, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by <a href="http://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/umass-amherst-leads-team-first-sequencing" target="_blank">a team at UMass Amherst</a>, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the <a href="https://vertebrategenomesproject.org" target="_blank">Vertebrate Genomes Project</a>, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.</p><p>Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way <a href="https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-europeans-imagined-exotic-animals-centuries-ago-ba-1545362205" target="_blank">hearsay warped perception a long time ago</a>. </p>
<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODY1Mzk3MS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwODk4MzkxNX0.eCCXoRLbyuVxkkGRzNcL4dIsTExi1-mlkb353Cj1xrI/img.png?width=980" id="46271" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0ed8375abcbc5b0a650f3c5910efeca3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="elephant by Guillaume le Clerc" />
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons<p>It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the <a href="https://www.croptrust.org/our-work/svalbard-global-seed-vault/" target="_blank">Svalbard Global Seed Vault</a>. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.</p><p>But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1600-0587.2013.00629.x" target="_blank">the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity</a>. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats. </p><p>John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, <a href="https://www.masslive.com/expo/news/erry-2018/09/e565d904646142/umass-scientists-oversee-first.html" target="_blank">said to MassLive</a> that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e57873e97e76b2b224b5ff91f003bdea"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0HujyOjjpZY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.</p><p>Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, <a href="http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/jan/11/federal-governments-step-toward-delisting-canada-l/" target="_blank">a move that caught scientists by surprise</a>, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.</p>
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