Genetics provide unique ways to understand livestock
The recent sequencing of the bovine genome has opened a window to a whole new way of perceiving a cow. Soon, it may change the meaning of cattle farms as well, writes Adam Anson, TheCattleSite.
Genetics provide an entirely new way to interpret the world around us. The compounds of DNA are nature's most complete description of itself. Once we learn to read them, scientists used to say, we will be able to understand life at a much more profound level. Well now we can. However, it is no easy task.
Recently, in a project that took over six years, involving more than 300 scientists from 25 countries, an annotated sequence of the cattle genome was developed for the first time. The consequence of their work will undoubtedly make historic changes throughout the livestock industry.
The researchers used the complete sequence of genomes from a single Hereford cow and comparative genome sequences for six more breeds to complete their project. It has been estimated that the genome contains approximately 22,000 genes and 2.8 billion nucleotides. This is a lot of information to decipher, but many ask: what exactly can we understand from it all?
Genomes not only tell us what animals essentially are, but they also give us an insight into their entire history, how it has evolved to be as it is and how it has adapted to its ever-adapting environment. We can also discover just how similar they are to ourselves.
By studying the bovine genome against the already-sequenced human genome the researchers discovered that, during evolution, domesticated cattle and other ruminants diverged from a common ancestor that gave rise to humans about 95 million years ago. Today, humans and cattle still hold 80 per cent of the same DNA. There is also an evident change in the cattle genome that researchers believe reflects the humans domestication of wild cows some eight to ten thousand years ago.
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