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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Release of Six New Reference-Quality Genomes Reveals Superpowers of Bats

Photo of a pale spear-nosed bat (Phyllostomus discolor) courtesy of the Rossiter Lab (@rossiterlab) Bat lovers and animal researchers have been waiting for insights into the evolution and remarkable genetic adaptations of our winged mammalian friends, ever since the global Bat1K initiative announced its quest to decode the genomes of all 1,300 species of bats using SMRT Sequencing and other technologies. Now, the first six reference-quality genomes have been released on the Hiller Lab Genome Browser, and described in a pre-print by Sonja Vernes (@Sonja_Vernes), Michael Hiller (@hillermich) and Gene Myers (@TheGeneMyers) of the Max Planck Institute, Emma Teeling (@EmmaTeeling1) of…

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Friday, August 30, 2019

From Parakeet to Potoo, International Consortium Releases 100 High-Quality Vertebrate Genomes

100 high-quality assemblies released by the Vertebrate Genome Project include the genome of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise With her distinctive dark eyeshadow, grey lipstick-like markings and delicate disposition, she was a natural film star. And her life certainly provided enough drama for any Hollywood blockbuster, complete with high-speed boat chases in pursuit of black market “cocaine of the sea” cartels. Unfortunately, her ending was not a happy one. But efforts by an international consortium of conservation geneticists are making sure her legacy isn’t lost. The DNA of one of the last remaining vaquita porpoises in the world has been…

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

German Shepherd Genome Project Fetches Popular Vote

Maya and her partner, Sgt. Nic Banuelos, of the UWPD K9 unit First there was Shadow, the poodle owned by gene-entrepreneur Craig Venter. Then there was Tasha, a female Boxer. Will the next de-coded dog be Maya, a German Shepherd Dog that helps police the campus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison? Maya has been basking in social media celebrity alongside her human companion Sgt. Nic Banuelos, PhD students Lauren Baker and Emily Binversie, technician Jorden Gruel, veterinary surgeon-scientists Susannah Sample and Peter Muir, and Peter’s woven likeness, after winning the 2019 Plant and Animal SMRT Grant, co-sponsored by Histogenetics. We…

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Friday, March 15, 2019

From the Smallest Organisms to the Most Complex, the Future is Bright for Plant & Animal Sequencing

For the thousands of scientists who attended The Plant and Animal Genome Conference in San Diego this January, the sentiment seemed to be “ask not if PacBio is for you, but how PacBio can work best for you.” The answer that emerged during PacBio’s PAG workshop and subsequent SMRT Informatics Developers Conference was a complex one. Recent developments, such as new chemistry, new SMRT Cells, the SMRTbell Express Template Prep Kit, and SMRT Link 6.0 software have already led to faster and easier library prep, longer reads with more data and reliability, better transcript characterization (Iso-Seq) and phasing (FALCON-Unzip) capabilities…

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Building a Digital Genome Ark: Vertebrate Genome Project Releases 15 New Reference Genomes

The duck-billed platypus genome is one of 15 high-quality assemblies released by the Vertebrate Genome Project When creating a global genomic ark of creatures great and small, scientists are turning to the comprehensive coverage and quality of PacBio sequencing. The Vertebrate Genomes Project (VGP), an international consortium of more than 150 scientists from 50 academic, industry and government institutions in 12 countries, recently released the first 15 of an anticipated 66,000 high-quality reference genomes representing all vertebrate species on Earth. The VGP consortium spent three years selecting technologies and workflows to produce higher quality, “platinum-level” genomes, and SMRT Sequencing was…

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Friday, August 31, 2018

International Eagle Conservation Efforts Bolstered By New Genome Release

Genetics is not only key to discovering and tracing new traits in an organism, but also conserving old ones — and in some cases, the species itself. A deep understanding of genetic variation within and among species can be used to reconstruct their evolutionary history, to examine their contemporary status, and to predict the future effects of management strategies. With this in mind, scientists at the UK’s Wellcome Sanger Institute were keen to incorporate endangered species among 25 genomes to be sequenced as part of a project to mark its 25-year anniversary, and the first assembly to be released is…

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Something to Crow About: SMRT Sequencing Aids Conservation of Rare Hawaiian Bird

Brought to the brink of extinction, the future of Hawaii’s only lineage of the crow family (Corvidae) is looking up thanks to intensive conservation genomics efforts using PacBio de novo assemblies. In Hawaiian mythology, the ‘alalā is said to lead souls to their final resting place on the cliffs of Ka Lae, the southernmost tip on the Big Island of Hawaii. As one of the largest native bird populations, it also had a vital role in the ecosystem, helping to disperse and germinate seeds of many indigenous plant species. Disease, predators and shrinking habitats led to a complete loss of…

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Egyptian Rousette Bat Genome Provides Clues to Antiviral Mystery

When humans are infected with the Marburg virus, the result is often lethal, with hemorrhagic fever and other symptoms similar to Ebola. When bats are infected, the result is…. nothing. The tiny mammals remain asymptomatic. In order to crack this antiviral mystery, a multi-institutional team of scientists sequenced, assembled and analyzed the genome of the bat species Rousettus aegyptiacus, a natural reservoir of Marburg virus and the only known reservoir for any filovirus. Their findings contradicted previous hypotheses about bat antiviral immunity, which assumed  that bats had enhanced antiviral defenses, controlling viral replication early in infection, and developing effective adaptive immune…

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Scientists Aim to Develop “Genomic Ark” of High-Quality Bat Genomes

Pop quiz: Which animal accounts for around 20% of all living mammals, harbors (yet survives) some of the world’s deadliest diseases, lives proportionately longer than humans given its body size, and helps make tequila possible? Answer: Bats. From the tiniest bumblebee bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) to the large (1kg) golden-capped fruitbat (Acerodon jubatus), the diversity and rare adaptations in bats have both fascinated and terrified people for centuries. Now, an international consortium of bat biologists, computational scientists, conservation organizations, and genome technologists has set out to decode the genomes of all 1,300 species of bats using SMRT Sequencing and other technologies.…

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Nematode Assembly Simplifies Search for Evolutionary Clues

Nematodes are both simple and complex, making them one of the most attractive animal taxa to study basic biological processes, including genome evolution. Studies in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, for instance, have provided invaluable insights into almost all aspects of biology, from developmental to neurobiology and human diseases. However, the high degree of fragmentation of current genome assemblies for many organisms complicates almost all types of genomic analysis. As the authors of a recent Cell Reports paper, Single-Molecule Sequencing Reveals the Chromosome-Scale Genomic Architecture of the Nematode Model Organism Pristionchus pacificus, point out, “general questions of chromosome evolution cannot be…

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

New Assembly of Wheat Progenitor Offers Clues to Genome Evolution

Following on the heels of the first nearly complete assembly of the hexaploid bread wheat genome, scientists from the University of California, Davis, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Johns Hopkins University, and many other institutions recently published a high-quality genome assembly for one of wheat’s diploid ancestors. Both efforts incorporated SMRT Sequencing to improve contiguity of the assemblies. The new publication reveals that the ancestral plant’s genome has evolved more quickly than usual, driven largely by repeats. The paper, “Genome sequence of the progenitor of the wheat D genome Aegilops tauschii,” comes from senior author Jan Dvořák; lead authors Ming-Cheng Luo, Yong…

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

A Fish Tale: Centromeres Prove Central to the Divergence of a Species

The ability to study the speciation of an animal in real-time is a dream come true for evolutionary and developmental biologists. A group of Japanese researchers has gotten that opportunity, thanks in part to SMRT Sequencing. Scientists at the University of Tokyo were the first to create a reference genome for an inbred strain of the medaka fish (Oryzias latipes), genome size ~800 Mb, in 2007. The genome assembly was created using Sanger sequencing, but contained low-quality regions and 97,933 sequence gaps. So, the team started from scratch with long-read sequencing to generate genome assemblies with far less missing sequence.…

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