Researchers map most of turkey’s genome

Domestic turkeys, a Thanksgiving staple, have become so popular year-round that they rank fourth, after pork, beef and chicken, as the meat of choice for Americans. Now, scientists have for the first time mapped nearly 90 per cent of the turkey genome. This information may lead to advancements in meat quality, bird fertility and production rates.The turkey genome sequence is described in the journal PLoS Biology.

To do the sequencing, the researchers used a new technology that rapidly acquired the genetic data within a year. This preliminary data was a set of hundreds of millions of bases or molecules that make up the turkey’s DNA. Using computer software, the scientists created a genetic blueprint of the turkey.

“The genome is really like a book on the turkey,” said Rami A Dalloul, an author of the study and an animal and poultry researcher in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.

When researchers sequenced the chicken genome, in 2004, it took several years and cost millions of dollars, Dalloul said. But because the technology has improved so rapidly, the turkey genome cost a little more than $200,000 to sequence, he said.

The genomic book on the turkey may be useful in the continued breeding of turkeys for food.

Finding which genes are connected to fertility could help the industry increase production by making genetically modified turkeys. Nutrient content might also be increased.

Helping cats make their way home

Less than two per cent of cats in animal shelters make it back to their owners, whereas about 15 per cent to 19 percent of dogs are returned; and one reason is that more dogs wear collars. Putting collars on some of the 88 million cats in the US may help change this situation, according to a  study published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Most dog owners are required to register their dogs and obtain a pet license. This is not always a requirement for cats. Cat owners are also less likely than dog owners to use identifying collars. There is fear that a collar could strangle a cat, or that cats will rip them off, said Linda Lord, a veterinary scientist at the Ohio State University and the study’s lead author. Lord and her colleagues studied 538 collared cats for six months. At the end of the six months, 75 percent of the cats were still wearing their collars. Only a few had injured themselves, but none severely.  The researchers also found that embedding microchips that store identification information under the skin of the cat is effective. If a cat is lost, a scanner detects the chip and reads the owner’s information on it.

A dinosaur’s unique story

Researchers have discovered the most complete fossil of a meat-eating dinosaur from Europe in Las Hoyas, Spain. Curiously, it is humpbacked. The study appears in the journal Nature.Named Concavenator corcovatus, the dinosaur belongs to the theropod family.

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