Conserving animal genetic resources in Vietnam

A CIRAD project is using both somatic cloning and in situ approaches to conserve genetic resources of various threatened useful wild animals (including livestock relatives) in the highands of Vietnam. GIS is also being used to map genetic diversity as measured by molecular markers. The results will be extended to prepare a conservation strategy for the region as a whole.

DNA database of fungal biodiversity

Scientists at the University of California at Berkeley are working with samples from the Venice Museum of Natural History to create a DNA database of some 6000 different species. A press release from UC Berkeley gives more details of the project, which will zero in on a small portion of non-coding ribosomal DNA that is known to be unique to each species. The database will allow researchers to identify fungi conclusively without having to wait for them to fruit, an erratic process that can be subject to delays. This could help scientists to respond more rapidly to the global spread of some fungal pathogens. It will also be useful for taxonomic studies.

Fido not a domesticated wolf?

Domestic dogs are derived from wolves, right? Maybe not. There is apparently a minority view that says that a better interpretation of behavioural, morphological and genetic differences between the domestic dog and the wolf is that the dog was domesticated from a now-extinct, pariah-like precursor, with occasional hybridization with wolves along the way. You can read more about this controversial view on Darren Naish’s zoological blog.

An apple a day

Anthocyanins make apples red, and make people healthy, through their antioxidant action. Now we know where the gene which controls anthocyanin production in apples is located, because scientists at CSIRO in Australia measured how much different genes were expressed as differently coloured fruits ripened. This opens the way for marker-assisted selection, as colour can now be predicted even in seedlings. It seems that apple sales have been pretty flat lately, but that launching a new variety can sometimes give them a boost. That could now be easier. Now if only the same sort of intensity of effort could be directed at the marula, say.

Grape origins

A paper in Conservation Genetics identifies (not, I think, for the first time) the Caucasus as the centre of diversity and origin of wild grapevine, at least based on microsatellites. A genetic refugium was detected in Sardinia, and it would be interesting to know whether the plastid lineage that is fixed there is responsible for the high levels of procyanidins in some local wines.