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.
For more information about our aims, consortium members, and projects, please see the OMG website