Researchers have sequenced the koala genome in its entirety for the first time. Their findings, published in Nature Genetics yesterday (July 2), could help in protecting the marsupials from disease and in drafting conservation plans.
They found that koalas produce purifying enzymes that assist in their digestion of eucalyptus leaves, which are harmful to most organisms. Further, koalas have certain genes that help them sniff out and eat wholesome plants.
The analysis highlighted genes that afford the koalas immunity—important information as scientists work to protect the animals from chlamydia, a major problem facing koalas.
According to the BBC, coauthor Rebecca Johnson, a director at the Australian Museum Research Institute, says sequencing the koala’s genome is “really critical information to continue the development of a chlamydial vaccine.”
R.N. Johnson et al., “Adaptation and conservation insights from the koala genome,” Nat Genet, doi:10.1038/s41588-018-0153-5, 2018.