A team of researchers led by the Australian Institute of Botanical Science
have assembled the complete genome of the striking species Telopea speciosissima
for the first time, further bolstering international flora conservation efforts.
All living things have a genome, which is an organism’s complete set of genetic information, consisting of DNA.
In a major coup for plant science and conservation, the waratah reference genome is the first to come out of the Genomics for Australian Plants Initiative
, a project funded by Bioplatforms Australia and partner organisations* in 2018 to further genomic research on Australian native plants, involving researchers from herbariums and Botanic Gardens across the country.
Despite its cultural, commercial and ecological significance, there was no reference genome for the waratah and few within its Proteaceae family of more than 1,500 species, with genetic studies typically focussed on species of agricultural importance.
Sequencing a genome is a vital part of conservation science and happening more frequently for plant, fungi and animal species around the world thanks to decreasing costs and rapid technological advances.
Lead researcher Stephanie Chen, who is completing her PhD with the Institute’s Research Centre for Ecosystem Resilience and UNSW Sydney, said sequencing a genome was like putting together a puzzle without a picture on the box.
“Imagine you’re putting together a puzzle and it has billions and billions of pieces – with the help of three different sequencing technologies, we’ve been able to link all the pieces that are the bits of DNA together, ultimately revealing the puzzle,” she said.
“By mapping genomes, we gain a better understanding of the natural world.