Sandy the desert dingo wins The World’s Most Interesting Genome Competition

Sandy the desert dingo wins The World’s Most Interesting Genome Competition

Sandy the purebred desert dingo, pictured as a pup soon after her 2014 rescue, is a “gift to science”. Photo: Barry EggletonAnn”gift to science” has been named the winner of a global competition.
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Sandy thepurebred desert dingo beat four international finalists to take first place in the World’s Most Interesting Genome Competition.

The win will give n scientists the opportunity to decode her DNAandtest a hypothesis raised by Charles Darwinalmost 150 years ago.

The public determined the winner of the annual competition.Sandy edged out a TemplePitvipersnake, a solar-powered sea slug, an explosive bombardier beetleand a pink pigeon to claim 41 per cent of votes. Up for grabs was thePacific BiosciencesSMRTGrant, whichenables sequencing of thecomplete genome of an important animal or plant.

The proposal to study Sandy’s DNAwas led by Professor Bill Ballard from the University of NSW, with Professor Claire Wade of the University of Sydney, Dr Richard Melvin of UNSW, Dr RobertZammitof the Vineyard Veterinary Hospital and Dr AndreMinocheof the Garvan Institute of Medical Research also part of the project.

The sequencing will be carriedout at the Universityof Arizona.

“We are thrilled that our bid to have Sandy’s DNA sequenced captured the public’s imagination,” Professor Ballard, from UNSW’sSchool of Biotechnology andBiomolecularSciences, said.

Professor Ballard has previously saidDarwintheorisedthat there are two stepsto the process of domestication:unconscious selection, as a result of non-intentional human influences, and artificial selection, through deliberate human activities such as breeding.

Sequencing Sandy’s DNA will allow scientists to examine the changes in genesassociated with the process of domestication.

“Sandy is truly agift to science,” Professor Ballard said. “As a rare, wild-born pure dingo, she provides a unique case study. Pure dingoes are intermediate between wild wolves and domestic dogs, with a range of non-domesticated traits. So sequencing Sandy’s genome will help pinpoint some of the genes for temperament and behaviour that underlie the transition from wild animals to perfect pets.”

Professor Ballard added that “learning more about dingo genetics will help efforts to conserve these wonderful n animals, through the development of improved tests for dingo purity”.

Sandy and her siblings, Eggie and Didi, were three weeks old when they were found motherless near the Strzelecki Trackin central in2014 by Barry and Lyn Eggleton, who raised the pups themselves.

Purebred desert dingoes are increasingly rare in as the native animalsinterbreed with wild and domesticdogs andare targeted as pests by landholders.

Scientists at the UNSW’sRamaciotti Centre for Genomics haveworked on the genomes of other important native species including the koala, the Tasmanian devil, the wombat, the platypus, the Queensland fruit fly and the Wollemi Pine.

“We’re very proud of UNSW’s history of contribution to genomics and we are delighted that Sandy’s genome will now be sequenced as the prize for winning this competition,” UNSW molecular biologist and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Merlin Crossley, said.

” has so many interesting animals to sequence and the results enhance our understanding of evolution and biology and help improve agriculture and pest management.”