This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.

Wildlife

Bighorn sheep genome sequenced

  • Aug 18, 2015
  • 298 words
  • 2 minutes
UAlberta researchers compiled the full genome of the bighorn sheep using its domestic cousin as a reference point. (Photo: Joshua Miller)
UAlberta researchers compiled the full genome of the bighorn sheep using its domestic cousin as a reference point. (Photo: Joshua Miller)
Expand Image
Advertisement

Efforts to conserve bighorn sheep could receive a boost after scientists at the University of Alberta constructed the first whole genome sequence of the animal.

The species, which is native to Alberta, is not classified as “at risk” in the province but its numbers have plummeted, according to Joshua Miller, a PhD student in the department of biological studies and lead author of the genome study.

“Bighorn sheep are an important symbol of Alberta and Canada’s wild spaces,” Miller told the university. “They are also the subject of recreational hunting and have experienced a major population decline throughout their range as a result of human exploitation and disease-related die-offs. Thus, there is active interest in how best to manage the species to ensure their long-term survival.”

Obtaining the whole genome sequences of species such as the bighorn sheep “opens new avenues of research such as using genomics to plan conservation actions for at-risk species,” said the university report of Miller’s study.

To obtain the whole genome sequence, Miller and his colleagues used a method called alignment, which uses a genome that’s already been sequenced as a reference point. In this case, the whole genome sequence was that of a domestic sheep. Miller likened the process to being able to look at the picture on a jigsaw puzzle box when putting the puzzle together. The alignment method is less time-consuming and produces a more accurate picture of the genome than the traditional de novo method of assembly, which he described to the university as being “given the puzzle pieces” and finding out “what sort of picture they make.”

Read the full University of Alberta report on Miller’s study here.

Advertisement

Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

The Ultimate Arctic Quiz

This story is from the October 2015 Issue

Related Content

Wildlife

Unravelling the genetic secrets of an ice age relic

The deepwater sculpin thrives in deep lakes and cold temperatures. Researchers are now sequencing its genome to unravel the genetic secrets of this iconic Canadian fish

  • 869 words
  • 4 minutes

Wildlife

Wildlife Wednesday: how chaos theory can explain narwhals’ weird behaviour

Plus: size matters for female bighorn sheep, the hidden migration of North American dragonflies, helping trees move north and the great white who drew itself

  • 991 words
  • 4 minutes

Wildlife

Wildlife Wednesday: The “wonderful net” protecting whales and dolphins from deep-sea brain damage

Plus: wolverine genome is sequenced for first time, Arctic fish species is found to produce antifreeze, dinosaur fossil discovered showing some skin and a pesky Canadian insect is feeling the heat

  • 1051 words
  • 5 minutes

Travel

Rafting the Firth River with Nahanni River Adventures

Brian and Dee Keating share their incredible rafting journey in the remote Arctic tundra on a once-in-a-lifetime Canadian Geographic Adventure

  • 4617 words
  • 19 minutes