Using current technology, it is feasible to sequence the genome of virtually any species; however, application of genomics information to population management or to the prediction of individual traits is more difficult.1-3 The goal of the Snow Leopard Functional Genomics Initiative (SLFGI) is to develop genomics-based tools for use by population managers to address problems encountered in conservation of small captive populations of endangered species. Although the snow leopard is the focus of the initial work in this project, the models developed will be broadly applicable to other small populations of endangered species, with the ultimate goal being to maintain species diversity and robustness in these populations.
Supported by an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Planning Grant, SLFGI has built the foundation for a proof-of-principle model for integration of genomics into captive population management plans. The initial step was to convene a workshop, held in January 2010, to bring together potential project partners and consultants including geneticists, immunologists, and members of the North American Snow Leopard Species Survival Plan. Based on workshop discussions and continued interaction with participants after the workshop, we identified key concepts, requirements, needs and concerns that must be considered when devising a strategy for using genomics information in endangered species conservation. In addition, we have established a bank of blood and tissue samples from more than 60 captive snow leopards, constructed a draft of the snow leopard genome, developed a PCR-based saliva assay for papillomavirus infection,4 and begun analysis of polymorphisms in specific genes associated with immune function.
The Snow Leopard Functional Genomics Initiative was supported by an IMLS National Leadership Planning Grant, LG-54-09-0068-09. The authors thank Illumina for providing resources for expanded genome sequencing.
1. Hudson, M.E. 2008. Sequencing breakthroughs for genomic ecology and evolutionary biology. Mol Ecol Resour. 8: 3–17.
2. Kohn, M.H., W.J. Murphy, E.A. Ostrander, and R.K. Wayne. 2006. Genomics and conservation genetics. Trends Ecol Evol. 21: 629–637.
3. Miller, W., S.J. Wright, Y. Zhang, S.C. Schuster, and V.M. Hayes. 2010. Optimization methods for selecting founder individuals for captive breeding or reintroduction of endangered species. Pac Symp Biocomput. 15: 43–53.
4. Mitsouras K., E.A. Faulhaber, G. Hui, J.O. Joslin, C. Eng, M.C. Barr, and K.J.L. Irizarry. Development of a PCR assay to detect papillomavirus infection in the snow leopard. 2011. BMC Vet Res. 7:38 (doi:10.1186/1746-6148-7-38; published: 18 July 2011).