World-first chromosome mapping to save an endangered Australian mouse

World-first chromosome mapping to save an endangered Australian mouse

By Pamela Jolly  September 15th, 2022

Using DNA samples from the smoky mouse, scientists have been able to create a world-first full chromosome-length reference genome that will help inform broader conservation and biodiversity efforts.

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Known in the scientific world as Pseudomys fumeus or ‘Konoom’, the original name from the Wadawurrung people of Victoria, it is the size of a small rat with soft blue grey fur and a long pink tail. But don’t be fooled by its cute unassuming appearance, this mouse has the potential to be a flagship rodent whose conservation is also expected to benefit species like the southern brown bandicoot, southern emu-wren, beautiful firetail and the plants Genoplesium ryoliticum, Leionema ralstonii and Westringia davidii, also impacted by habitat pressure.

Once widespread, the smoky mouse has been threatened by predation from feral cats, foxes and domestic dogs as well as habitat loss through land clearance for road construction and timber harvesting. Even before the 2019-2020 bushfires further devastated the smoky mouse habitat, conservation work was already underway with active recovery plans established in 2006.

As part of these recovery programs DNA samples have been collected from more than 200 smoky mice living in different pockets of NSW and Victoria, by Museums Victoria and their partners.

DNA Zoo at The University of Western Australia has collaborated with Museums Victoria to review these samples from current species, along with historic samples from extinct mice, to successfully sequence the full-length genome. Understanding the complete species genome assists conservationists by enabling them to identify the level of genomic diversity and design better breeding programs to increase resilience.

Some of the techniques used to map the smoky mouse genome are expected to be used in other diversity projects, like US biotech Colossal Biosciences and the University of Melbourne’s Thylacine or Tasmanian tiger restoration project.

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Pamela Jolly

Pamela is a Marketing Communications professional with over 10 years experience working for both agencies and organisations in communications, travel, finance and retail industries. Pamela loves to be in nature riding a bike, skiing, appreciating the trees at her local park or exploring wild places abroad with her family.

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