British scientists have made a breakthrough that could help safeguard the future of one of the world’s most admired birds – the golden eagle. The majestic king of birds is under threat in some areas, but a study led by the Wellcome Sanger Institute could help them return to those spots.
The work to unravel their genetic code is part of a mission to sequence 25 new genomes of UK species.
Scientists selected the golden eagle to have its genome sequenced – to have every letter of its code read and recorded – because of the value of that genetic information to conserve the birds.
Dr Rob Ogden, a conservation biologist from Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute, who was a lead scientist in the project, explained that this “blueprint for life” would support the management of the species – even helping conservationists to bring back eagles to areas where they have disappeared.
“Having a whole genome for any species is a real game changer,” he said. “It opens up a huge amount of potential research – everything from looking at the health of the bird to the ecology, to how it reproduces – and so this is the beginning of a much bigger journey into golden eagle biology.
“In future, we want to be able to screen wild birds to select the best birds to move around.”
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