Scientists unlock secrets of falcon DNA
Researchers in the University of Kent have made significant strides towards understanding the genomes—and hence the biology—of falcons.
A study by a team led by Professor Darren Griffin at the University's School of Biosciences created chromosome-level assemblies and compared three iconic species, the Peregrine, Saker and Gyr falcons.
Many falcons are classified as endangered and are remarkable for their incredible eyesight, acceleration speeds and hunting skills. Studying their genomes helps understand a wide range of aspects of falcon biology, including morphology, ecology, and physiology, as well as being essential for conservation efforts.
Furthermore, whole genome sequencing enables an understanding of how the genome relates to physical characteristics, e.g., growth, development, maintenance and disease resistance.
The researchers focussed specifically on the overall organization of the genome, expressed as an arrangement of chromosomes. The ultimate aim of any genome sequencing effort is to assign all or most of the genes to the appropriate chromosomes, with each gene or marker in order—in essence, creating a genomic map.
Making such a map of the genome in relation to the chromosomes (a so-called 'chromosome-level assembly') can aid genomic selection in breeding regimes and it also allows comparisons between species. Despite this, many animals—although having their genome sequenced—have not until recently had a chromosome-level genome assembly, and this had also applied to falcons.
The approach was developed at Kent in collaboration with the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.The paper, entitled Chromosome level genome assembly and comparative genomics between three falcon species reveals a pattern of genome organization not typical for birds, (Joseph S., O'Connor R.E., Al-Mutery A., Watson M., Larkin D.M. and Griffin, D.K.) is published in the journal Diversity.