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Cymraeg

Giant panda genome to be sequenced

01 April 2008

Cardiff University is contributing to the first genome project to assist conservation efforts for an endangered species.

Researchers in the Cardiff School of Biosciences will work with international colleagues on the ‘Giant Panda Genome Project’.

The panda is often referred to as a ‘living fossil’, given evidence that its ancestors existed in China more than 8 million years ago. Research by Professor Mike Bruford, Cardiff School of Biosciences, previously found that the decline of the species can be linked directly to human activities rather than a genetic inability to adapt and evolve.

However, little research has been done on a genomic scale. The giant panda genome is approximately the same size as the human genome, and is thought to have 20,000-30,000 genes. Taxonomy and genetic studies indicate that the giant panda is most closely related to bears, not to raccoons as was once considered, given their unique physical characteristics.

Professor Bruford said: "This international collaboration will help scientists to understand the genetic basis for the giant panda’s unique adaptations, including its dietary specialisation, and will reveal the history of the species in unparalleled detail."

The project is a further example of conservation work of international significance undertaken by the School of Biosciences’ Biodiversity and Ecology Research Group. This week Wales’ Minister for the Environment, Sustainability and Housing Jane Davidson learned more about Cardiff’s conservation research at the opening of the Group’s new research facilities.

Jane Davidson, AM said: "Jane Davidson, said: "I am delighted to see the important biodiversity research that is taking place in the Cardiff School of Bioscience. Protecting biodiversity - so that it can provide essential ecosystem services that will help us to deal with social, economic and environmental changes - will be an essential ingredient of our success in achieving the future we want for Wales."

Ends

Notes to Editors:

1. Joining Cardiff scientists in the panda genome project are: the Kunming Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences; the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing); Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding; the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda (Wolong); the Beijing Institute of Genomics, the Chinese Academy of Sciences; Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI); BGI-Hangzhou; the University of Alberta (Canada); Fudan University (Shanghai); Sichuan University; Southeast University (Nanjing); Sun Yat-Sen University (Guangzhou); the University of California at Berkeley; the University of Copenhagen; the University of Hong Kong; the University of Washington (Seattle); the World Wide Fund for Nature, China; and the Zoological Society of San Diego.

2. Cardiff School of Biosciences

The Cardiff School of Biosciences addresses the major biological questions which face health and life scientists. The major research areas of the School are: biodiversity and ecology, connective tissue biology, environmental biochemistry and microbiology, mammalian genetics, molecular enzymology and entomology, and neuroscience cell biology. The School also houses the Common Cold Centre, the world’s only centre dedicated to researching and testing new medicines for treatment of the symptoms of flu and the common cold.

The School achieved a one hundred per cent success in the national, independent assessment of university teaching quality. The top ‘excellent’ grade was awarded to Pure and Applied Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, and to the first and second year pre-clinical training for doctors and dentists.

3. Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. It is also ranked as one of the world’s top 100 universities by the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES).

2008 marks the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University having been founded by Royal Charter in 1883. Today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s leading research universities.

Visit the University website at: www.cardiff.ac.uk

Further Information:

Professor Mike Bruford

School of Biosciences

Cardiff University

Tel: (0)29 2087 4312

Email: BrufordMW@cardiff.ac.uk

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Emma Darling

Public Relations

Cardiff University

Tel: 029 2087 4499

Email: DarlingEL@cardiff.ac.uk