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Giant panda genome to be sequenced

Cardiff University is contributing to the first genome project to assist conservation efforts for an endangered species.

Researchers in the Cardiff School of Biosciences will work with international colleagues on the ‘Giant Panda Genome Project’.

The panda is often referred to as a ‘living fossil’, given evidence that its ancestors existed in China more than 8 million years ago. Research by Professor Mike Bruford, Cardiff School of Biosciences, previously found that the decline of the species can be linked directly to human activities rather than a genetic inability to adapt and evolve.

However, little research has been done on a genomic scale. The giant panda genome is approximately the same size as the human genome, and is thought to have 20,000-30,000 genes. Taxonomy and genetic studies indicate that the giant panda is most closely related to bears, not to raccoons as was once considered, given their unique physical characteristics.

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Professor Bruford said: "This international collaboration will help scientists to understand the genetic basis for the giant panda’s unique adaptations, including its dietary specialisation, and will reveal the history of the species in unparalleled detail."

The project is a further example of conservation work of international significance undertaken by the School of Biosciences’ Biodiversity and Ecology Research Group.

This week Wales’ Minister for the Environment, Sustainability and Housing Jane Davidson learned more about Cardiff’s conservation research at the opening of the Group’s new research facilities.

Jane Davidson, AM said: “Jane Davidson, said: “I am delighted to see the important biodiversity research that is taking place in the Cardiff School of Bioscience. Protecting biodiversity - so that it can provide essential ecosystem services that will help us to deal with social, economic and environmental changes – will be an essential ingredient of our success in achieving the future we want for Wales.”

Mike Bruford | EurekAlert!
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