Genomics and the future of conservation genetics.

University of Montana, Missoula, 59812, USA.
Nature Reviews Genetics (Impact Factor: 39.79). 10/2010; 11(10):697-709. DOI: 10.1038/nrg2844
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT We will soon have complete genome sequences from thousands of species, as well as from many individuals within species. This coming explosion of information will transform our understanding of the amount, distribution and functional significance of genetic variation in natural populations. Now is a crucial time to explore the potential implications of this information revolution for conservation genetics and to recognize limitations in applying genomic tools to conservation issues. We identify and discuss those problems for which genomics will be most valuable for curbing the accelerating worldwide loss of biodiversity. We also provide guidance on which genomics tools and approaches will be most appropriate to use for different aspects of conservation.

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    ABSTRACT: The theory of population genetics originated over 80 years ago and allowed to explain, in terms of the evolutionary forces, the patterns of genetic variation within and between the populations that conform species. This research program generated the questions that have been empirically analyzed with the use of molecular markers for the last 50 years. A fundamental question within population genetics is if a reduced number of genes are representative of the evolutionary forces that affect the total genome of a species. This question has led to the development of molecular methods that allow the study of large sections of the genome in natural populations, giving rise to the field of population genomics. In recent years, techniques that are able to sequence DNA massively, usually called “Next generation sequencing” or “next-gen”, are helping us to obtain genome wide data in many species, without needing previous molecular information. Comparing the genomes of many individuals from different populations, now we have access to an archive of their evolutionary history that narrates the complex and dynamic balance in time between natural selection and other evolutionary forces, such as genetic drift and gene flow, which act mainly in neutral regions of the genomes. The amount of information that is being produced has required the development of new statistical and bioinformatics tools for their analyses. Diverse disciplines have profited from these new developments. In particular in evolutionary biology it is now possible to study in a more precise way the adaptive patterns of variation. The annotation of genomes and the mapping of traits are important and complicated, but recent technical developments are making these goals easier, and thus the future challenge will be in asking the right questions to make relevant inferences from the sea of information these new methods generate. The evolutionary and population genetics perspective will enrich genomics, in the same way that the genomic data will help us advance in the development of the program initiated by Theodosius Dobzhansky several decades ago.


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