The Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC) is heading a national research to build the first map of the lynx genome, which involves six research centers and more than thirty scientists. This will be an essential tool to assess the impact of the loss of biodiversity on this felid, which has become a notorious and dramatic case of a species at the verge of extinction. Lynxgenomics is part of Project Zero program FGCSIC 2010 in Endangered Species, financed by Santander Bank, Fundación General CSIC.
A steep decline during the last half of the 20th century relegated the species to two isolated populations in the region of Andalucía, in the south of Spain: Doñana, in the west, and Andújar, in the centre. They have around 60 and 200 individuals, respectively.
Previous genetic studies have revealed major impacts of past decline and fragmentation on current genetic patterns for neutral molecular markers and it is suspected that genetic factors might be behind recently observed decreases in survival and reproduction.
Genomic approaches in conservation promise to increase the power and resolution of genetic analyses of endangered species and, most importantly, to allow the direct tinvestigation of the effects of decline on non-neutral genetic diversity and their implications for individual viability and population dynamics..
Our project, Lynx Genomics, aims to generate the tools and resources needed for the analyses of these issues in the Iberian lynx, the most endangered felid in the world.
The main aim of this research is to generate the first map of the Iberian lynx genome, which will provide important information on the evolution of this species and on the genetic consequences of its decline.
The lynx genomic sequence has already been identified by CNAG and is in the process of being assembled. When the process ends, in 2012, the researchers will face a new challenge: interpret it and compare it to other felid genomes.