July 19, 2019  |  

Adaptation and conservation insights from the koala genome.

Authors: Johnson, Rebecca N and O'Meally, Denis and Chen, Zhiliang and Etherington, Graham J and Ho, Simon Y W and Nash, Will J and Grueber, Catherine E and Cheng, Yuanyuan and Whittington, Camilla M and Dennison, Siobhan and Peel, Emma and Haerty, Wilfried and O'Neill, Rachel J and Colgan, Don and Russell, Tonia L and Alquezar-Planas, David E and Attenbrow, Val and Bragg, Jason G and Brandies, Parice A and Chong, Amanda Yoon-Yee and Deakin, Janine E and Di Palma, Federica and Duda, Zachary and Eldridge, Mark D B and Ewart, Kyle M and Hogg, Carolyn J and Frankham, Greta J and Georges, Arthur and Gillett, Amber K and Govendir, Merran and Greenwood, Alex D and Hayakawa, Takashi and Helgen, Kristofer M and Hobbs, Matthew and Holleley, Clare E and Heider, Thomas N and Jones, Elizabeth A and King, Andrew and Madden, Danielle and Graves, Jennifer A Marshall and Morris, Katrina M and Neaves, Linda E and Patel, Hardip R and Polkinghorne, Adam and Renfree, Marilyn B and Robin, Charles and Salinas, Ryan and Tsangaras, Kyriakos and Waters, Paul D and Waters, Shafagh A and Wright, Belinda and Wilkins, Marc R and Timms, Peter and Belov, Katherine

The koala, the only extant species of the marsupial family Phascolarctidae, is classified as 'vulnerable' due to habitat loss and widespread disease. We sequenced the koala genome, producing a complete and contiguous marsupial reference genome, including centromeres. We reveal that the koala's ability to detoxify eucalypt foliage may be due to expansions within a cytochrome P450 gene family, and its ability to smell, taste and moderate ingestion of plant secondary metabolites may be due to expansions in the vomeronasal and taste receptors. We characterized novel lactation proteins that protect young in the pouch and annotated immune genes important for response to chlamydial disease. Historical demography showed a substantial population crash coincident with the decline of Australian megafauna, while contemporary populations had biogeographic boundaries and increased inbreeding in populations affected by historic translocations. We identified genetically diverse populations that require habitat corridors and instituting of translocation programs to aid the koala's survival in the wild.

Journal: Nature genetics
DOI: 10.1038/s41588-018-0153-5
Year: 2018

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