Thursday 14 May 2020

Genome of beloved sea otter Gidget now available for browsing

MAY 13, 2020

A sea otter genome browser—featuring the Monterey Bay Aquarium's beloved Gidget—is now available to the public. The visualizable genome for the Southern sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis, comes following work by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) and UC Santa Cruz software bioinformaticians to make available the first complete southern sea otter genome sequenced by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles.

The release of the sea otter genome on the UCSC Genome Browser is the result of a study by UCLA scientists and co-authors that examined the evolutionary history and genetic diversity of sea otters, and found that sea otters have low genetic diversity. In their investigations, the researchers sequenced Gidget's genetic code—her genome.

A genome assembly is the entirety of the species' genetic code, produced after chromosomes have been fragmented, the genetic code in those fragments has been written down—or sequenced—and the resulting sequences have been put back together—or assembled.

The sea otter's low level of genetic diversity is similar to other threatened species, such as the cheetah and Tasmanian devil, said investigator Annabel Beichman, a UCLA graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology.

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