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New effort will analyze genes of endangered orcas



A new scientific paper will track down the genomes of the endangered Northwestern Orcas to better understand their genetics and find ways to prevent them from extinction.

The collaboration announced on Thursday involves scientists with the Northwest Fisheries of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Science Center, the nonprofit conservation agency, and BGI – a global genomics company.

The project will sequence the genome of more than 100 southern killer whales with skin or other samples of live and dead orcas in the last two decades. First results are expected next year.

Scientists said the information could help explain, for example, whether internal factors, such as inbreeding or genetic variation in the immune system, prevent whales from descending.

The distinctive black and white fish-eating killer whales are struggling with pollution, boat noise and the lack of their favorite prey, the king salmon. The death of a young orca last month ̵

1; despite a week-long international rescue operation – leaves only 74 in a group that has not been able to multiply successfully in the last three years. This is the lowest number in over 30 years.

"This will help us close some truly critical gaps in our understanding of why the population is not recovering," said Mike Ford, director of conservation biology at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. "As we fill in those gaps that will lead us to potentially better solutions."

Ford was lead author on a study that was released earlier this year, which found that only two men in the small population, half of the born and born calves, witnessed trials by scientists since 1990.

"Inbreeding could be a problem but we do not have enough data to study that in depth, "said Ford.

Inbreeding could, for example, affect whether a female orca becomes pregnant, whether she has a calf or how likely that calf is, to survive.

Female orcas have pregnancy problems due to nutritional stress associated with a lack of salmon. A multi-year study by the University of Washington and other researchers found that two-thirds of Orcas's pregnancies failed between 2007 and 2014.

BGI will sequence the genomes of the orcas and provide other scientists with analyzes and results to American fishery biologists and biologists. You will compare this research to the genomes of the Alaska population of killer whales that thrive, as well as mammalian-eating transient whales.

Yiwu He, CEO of BGI US groups in Seattle, said that like so many others in the region, he and his family were fascinated by the famous whales who spend time in Washington State's inland waters.

"We'd really like to do something to help," he said, adding that genome sequencing could (19659002) He found that BGI has extensive experience in sequencing whole genomes of humans, plants, and animals.

Kevin Werner, science and research director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, said the project is calling for more experts outside the government to work on the issues.

Ford said the findings might link other problems that whales are exposed to, such as lack of prey or contamination, and lead to other solutions. Whales that have a weaker immune system, for example due to lack of genetic diversity of immune system genes, could in the future justify more active treatment or better management.

"We do not know what we'll find," Ford said. "Maybe we'll learn something new about the population we do not already know."


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