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Team to sequence giant panda's genome: report

by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) March 7, 2008
Scientists from China and across the world are to sequence the genome of the giant panda to try to stop one of the world's most endangered species from being wiped out, state media reported Friday.

They hope the project will help be able to control diseases that affect the animal and help understand its famously low level of sexual activity, Xinhua news agency said.

"(This is) the first genome project to be undertaken specifically to gather information that will contribute to conservation efforts for an endangered species," it quoted Oliver Ryder, from the San Diego Zoo's Centre for Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, as saying.

"The giant panda is a global conservation symbol and deserving of such an effort," he said at the launch of the International Giant Panda Genome Project in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

The project aims to work out a draft sequence of the giant panda genome -- which is roughly the same size as a human's -- within the next six months.

The genome is the genetic material of a living thing encoded in its DNA, and each species has its own distinctive genome.

"The project will help scientists understand the genetic basis for the giant panda's adaptation to its special diet and behavioural style and reveal the history of their population isolation and migration," said Zhang Yaping, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, according to the report.

The giant panda is among the world's most endangered animals.

As of November last year, China had 239 of them in captivity, while about 1,590 more are thought to be living in the wild.

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