Analysis of the genome also revealed that golden eagles have far more genes associated with smell than previously realized, indicating that the birds might use smell to locate prey more than researchers thought.
Doyle used the genome to identify thousands of genetic markers that together could act as a DNA "fingerprint," allowing researchers to distinguish individual birds, follow them in a population and determine population size and flux, parentage and genetic variation.
DeWoody said the markers would also help scientists track the evolution of different families of genes and identify potential golden eagle pathogens, parasites and symbiotic organisms.
The researchers generated the genome by extracting DNA from a blood sample of a golden eagle that was captured with a spring-loaded net in California. The eagle was outfitted with a Global Positioning System tracking device before its release, making it possibly the first animal to have its genome sequenced and be tracked at the same time, DeWoody said.
Team leader Todd Katzner, a research assistant professor at West Virginia University, said the GPS device could allow the team to relate the individual movements and behavior of the golden eagle to its genome.
DeWoody said the golden eagle "truly represents the wild. We want to preserve and conserve this species for future generations, and the genome will improve our ability to do that."
|Contact: Natalie van Hoose|