Friday, October 15, 2010

Fish DNA

Whenever I talk about sequencing fish DNA, I feel like I belong in a science fiction novel. However, studying the genes of a species is pretty easy these days, and it's a very helpful step in most conservation projects. Our first goal is to learn more about the genetic diversity in a species. Genetic diversity is all the variation in the genes of organisms and is a very important component of biodiversity. If a species has a higher genetic diversity, that means it is more likely to have a large population size and be able to adapt to changes in the environment. Therefore, knowing some basic information about the pattern of genetic diversity across populations helps us know which populations are stable and which need some help.

This week, we were most interested in studying Conasauga logperch that we captured in August with our partners, Conservation Fisheries, Inc. This species is extremely rare and only lives in about 30 miles of the mainstem Conasauga River. Previous genetic analyses on this species indicate it has a very high genetic diversity compared to close relatives. If so, that's definitely something that needs preservation with the species. So we're sequencing more genes right now to understand why a species with such a small population has maintained a high genetic diversity. We're hoping that having a little bit more information on its genetic diversity will help us create a better captive propagation program for them. Stay tuned as we learn more about this darter!

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