Oz Mammals Genomics Initiative
The Oz Mammals Genomics Initiative is a collaborative project that is developing genomic resources for Australia’s mammals, tackling wildlife genomics at a continental scale. The availability of such resources for marsupials, rodents, and bats will underpin new studies of mammal evolution and guide conservation of the Australian mammal fauna.
Australia is famous for its unique terrestrial mammals, with most species found nowhere else. In the last 200 years approximately 30 Australian mammals have become extinct, including the thylacine, pig-footed bandicoot, eastern hare-wallaby and long-tailed hopping mouse. Many others are now threatened and there is an urgent need for effective conservation management. Genomics can contribute to this, for example by helping us to understand breeding systems and dispersal patterns of threatened species, and by improving our understanding of extinction risks.
Australian marsupials are genetically distinct and developmentally unique. This means that marsupial genomes are especially important comparative resources for understanding mammalian diversity worldwide. At this stage, very few marsupial or monotreme genomes have been studied in detail (the koala genome is one example), but these have led to some spectacular, globally significant discoveries about evolution. Given the unique history and biology of Australian mammals, these discoveries are just the tip of the iceberg. Future insights from marsupial DNA may include the development of novel antimicrobials, or an improved understanding of sex chromosome evolution.
Museum collections will be vital to the success of the Oz Mammals Genomics Initiative. DNA analysis of museum specimens will allow us to compare recent and historic levels of genetic diversity, and will improve our understanding of recently extinct species.
The consortium objectives are to:
- Build a foundation of genomic data to advance our understanding and conservation of Australia’s unique mammals
- Establish genomics as a key capacity across Australian museums and government agencies, build the community to sustain this
- Increase awareness among the public and conservation managers of the diversity of Australian mammals and how genomics can aid in their protection
The Initiative has three key aims:
Develop well-assembled marsupial genomes: Whole Genomes Working Group
Generate a comprehensive phylogenetic framework for Australian mammals: Phylogenomics Working Group
Build reference genomic datasets for threatened species: Conservation Genomics Working Group
The OMG Consortium
The Oz Mammals Genomics Initiative is an Australia-wide collaboration involving researchers from more than 30 institutions. Financial contributors to the consortium are:
- Australian Museum
- Australian National Wildlife Collection
- Centre for Biodiversity Analysis
- Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions
- Museums Victoria
- South Australian Museum
- University of Adelaide
- Western Australian Museum
We also have ongoing international collaborations, including with the Natural History Museum, London (UK), the University of Otago, Dunedin (NZ), the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Berkeley (USA), and the Genome 10K project.
See our OMG Consortium members page for details of all consortium members.