Caption: Scientists can use genome sequencing to learn how to better protect critically endangered species such as the California condor.

UCSC Genomics Institute researchers contribute to learning more about vertebrates

Isabella Backman |  MAY 12, 2021 | Good Times

About 4 billion years ago, the first cellular life came into existence. Ever since, parents have been passing on information to their children through DNA—the recipe for building a new organism from a single cell. This delicate process, occurring over many generations, has created an incredible diversity of life, from microscopic bacteria to the mighty mountain lion.

“We have unleashed an enormous ecological disruption on this planet,” Haussler says. “We as a species not only have the opportunity to read [these genomes], but we also have the duty to read them, because they can help us understand how we can save all of the species that are rapidly disappearing.” – David Haussler

Through the four chemical building blocks—known as A, T, G and C—that make up this fascinating yet complicated molecule, nature tells a story about how to survive. As an estimated 1 million plant and animal species face extinction, many of these messages are disappearing before scientists get a chance to read them.

Now, a team of researchers, including scientists at the UCSC Genomics Institute, is racing to read these messages. All of the DNA that is transferred from parents to offspring is known as the genome. The researchers are undertaking an ambitious project, known as the Vertebrate Genomes Project, with a goal of reading the genomes of the 71,657 named vertebrate species. That includes classes of living things with a spine such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. 

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